Boys varsity basketball finds success this season with a 12-5 record and an appearance in the district championship


Within the course of the unforgettable 2020-2021 winter season, FHC’s boys varsity basketball team was stacked up against all odds. Doubted time and time again, Rangerball overcame several major obstacles in this bizarre year. From triumphing against rivals to pulling off playoff upsets, FHC was up to the task each and every time. 

“Jumping from ‘six feet’ safety measures to full participation was a whirlwind. I will be honest, after about the first four days, I was running out of non-contact drills,” head coach Kyle Carhart joked when asked about the early-season struggles. “To their credit, the guys hung in through a lot of conditioning drills and overall uncertainty with a great attitude. They handled it much better than I would have in my playing day.” The mindset of this team from day one really paved the way for its eventual success.

After outlasting the early-season pauses due to COVID-19, Rangerball got right to work. Barely a week after the first contact practice, FHC faced the three toughest conference opponents to open the schedule. Traveling to Northview for the first game, senior Dallas Hopson came away with an incredible fourth quarter to top the Wildcats. Starting 1-0, FHC dropped its next two games to Forest Hills Northern and Grand Rapids Christian. At the hands of Ethan Erickson and Kobe Bufkin, this two-game stretch only further emphasized the brutal competition in this year’s OK White. 

Breezing through the Greenville Yellow Jackets by over 30 points, senior Jeremy James showcased the depth of this team by scoring a season-high of 15 points. The ability for any player to come off of the bench and contribute was perhaps the Rangers’ strongest suit. 

Following a tough loss to Hudsonville, FHC erupted for a four-game winning streak. In these games, junior Jacob Bonnett began to prove his value to the Rangers. Sparked by a 24-point performance against Byron Center, Bonnett’s overall efforts provided a massive boost for the already-deep FHC squad. Rangerball victories over East Grand Rapids, Northview, and Lowell put the team in a great position morale-wise.

Although they fell short at the hands of FHN once again, the Rangers continued their pursuit of a late-season run. Following the second defeat to Northern and the fourth total loss, FHC won its last four games to complete the regular season. Including a Senior Night victory over Byron Center, this final stretch showcased this team’s defensive intensity and togetherness. The final product, though it took a while, began to take form in the home stretch of the regular season. 

“Towards the end of the year, we really came together as a team,” junior Pierson VanGorp said. “After we won a few games, the chemistry increased, and we were on a roll. The last few weeks have been the closest I’ve ever been to a team.” Picking up notable wins to finish off the regular season, the success can be attributed to the bond created between the players.

Unluckily for the Rangers, their first-round playoff opponent was none other than the Rockford Rams. Performing at a level reflective of Michigan’s best teams, the Rams entered the contest heavily favored with a 15-2 record and OK Red championship. FHC, however, had different plans. In the end, a back-and-forth game ended in Rockford having one final shot for the win; nevertheless, the ball fell short. Upsetting a top 20 team in the state 52-51, the Rangers shocked the state of Michigan with an underdog mentality. A revenge game from last year’s loss to Rockford and coach Carhart’s first playoff win as a Ranger proved to be a highlight for the program’s treasured history.

A rematch against Northview in the ensuing round saw a similar trajectory on the scoreboard, with both teams trading buckets all night long. Containing Northview’s Kyler Vanderjagt was easier said than done; regardless, FHC’s offensive fluidity and momentum-grabbing ability allowed the Rangers to topple the Wildcats 56-49. 

In the district championship, FHC found itself just four measly wins from reaching the Breslin Center. However, Northern put an end to a phenomenal Rangerball playoff run by converting on late-game opportunities. While the Rangers led entering the fourth, the shooting efforts from Ethan Erickson and Trinidad Chambliss were simply too much for FHC to handle. An eight-point defeat signified the end of a remarkable season, but the mere existence of this team will be remembered for years to come.

“The end of the season is always tough. For this group of seniors to do what they did through a season unlike any in history, it is hard to express how proud I am of them,” Carhart said. “They set the tone for our team in our early, outdoor conditioning. They embraced a true team-first mentality and when that happens, special seasons can happen. I think that our younger guys, juniors and under, learned what it takes to find team success. I am hopeful that they will build on what was accomplished this season as we move forward.”

Even with the loss of valuable seniors Peyton Bush, Chris Battiste, Jonah Spates, Matthew Mahoney, Jacob Ervin, Dallas Hopson, Jeremy James, and Cam David, the 2020-2021 Rangerball squad will forever be in the archives as a tribute to Rangerball’s culture of determination and fight.