The Jungle: one of FHC’s greatest treasures


Funnily enough, the FHC basketball student section didn’t just earn its nickname from the wild atmosphere it brings night in and night out. 

In fact, if it weren’t for the continuous rise of the basketball program starting in 1994, the FHC community would likely be without such prized followership that truly makes Rangerball one-of-a-kind.

When 24-year head coach Ken George–who retired in 2018–first took the reigns in ‘94, saying that the program lacked identity and community would be an understatement. But, that didn’t mean that there were no expectations. 

“I was 25 years old and had never really been a coach,” George said. “I really just wanted to build something that the community and school could be really proud of.”

So, as George and his squad began to improve their win total year after year, it all began to come together. Pretty quickly, his early success was noticeable enough to coin the name “the Jungle” for the student section. 

The name worked out perfectly, as it captured the fans’ utter frenzy and passion while also alluding to George of the Jungle to recognize the efforts of their coach.

Ken George gave the students a winning basketball team, so they gave him a killer student section in return.

Ken George knew what he needed to do in order to build a reputation for his program.

“It definitely includes winning,” he said, referencing his early desire to assemble something special at FHC. “It also includes doing things the right way, building a youth program, and just creating a sense of community around a basketball team.”

The hype around the Jungle only increased as Rangerball began to pick up serious attention. The team broke out in 2001-2002, making FHC history by winning conferences, districts, and even regionals. As a result, the Jungle’s population steadily grew by the game.

For George, it was a moment in the early 2000s that created a core memory for him and the student section. Playing in the district finals against Rockford–who was a state-renowned team during this period–the Rangers used the atmosphere in the building to knock off its toughest competitor.

“It was a 45-minute drive through terrible weather,” George recalled. “Still, it was floor-to-ceiling and as wide as you could imagine. From the minute warmups started, [the students] were absolutely crazy.”

After a while, this is how most games for the Rangers would play out. Not only did the Jungle constantly show out numbers-wise, but the pure pandemonium and devotion to FHC athletics are also what truly defines the Jungle. Unlike most other places, the student section possesses the ability to take over games.

In Ken George’s opinion, that game in the early 2000s was a defining moment in the Jungle’s storied history.

“I have chills just thinking about it. We were either going to finally topple this champion and go to the next level, or we were going to falter a little bit,” George said. “Not only did we win, but I think the student section won, I think the community won, and it was a Rangerball-type night.”

Students that come through FHC are presented with the privilege of the Jungle; not many high schools around the area carry such a strong presence to games through their students and fans. 

Even during away games, the Jungle never fails to show up in the biggest matchups.

Regardless, it is difficult to understate the beauty of the Jungle and how it came about. In order to appreciate being part of a unique community, it is important to understand the origin story.

“I think moments like those are what propelled us to many years of being a really strong program, from the coaches to the fans,” George said.