Justin Osterhouse overcomes early-game nerves in varsity football’s 29-14 victory over Jenison


Justin analyzes the defense before the snap.

There were food trucks, animal pens, carnival games, bounce houses, and a large crowd in attendance as FHC took on Jenison in a much-anticipated season opener—even former Michigan Wolverine big man Jon Teske made it out to the game.

“I knew there would be a lot of people at the game, which obviously made me nervous, but I had to be ready no matter what my emotions were like, which is where I tried to focus myself mentally,” junior quarterback Justin Osterhouse said.

Before Justin’s first varsity start on Thursday, he had played in front of no more than 70 fans. On Thursday, there were 3,000.

“We knew we had to take the pressure off him and put it on the offensive line—who played very well today,” coach Rogers said. “[Senior Will Richardson] played as he should play and can play, so he did a nice job upfront. Along with him, Crandall Quinn did a nice job, Carter Kelly did a great job, and Owen Meyer and Parker Vredenburg did too. But he [Will] for sure played as good as he has ever played.”

At the start of the game, it was evident that FHC wanted to shock Jenison with an early jolt of powerful run blocking.

“Mentally, we all just wanted to fight and prove that we were a good team with a powerful offensive line,” Will Richardson said. “I think our first few snaps on offense gave the team a spark to keep on fighting in the trenches.”

Will and the offensive line quickly punched Jenison in the mouth by plowing a path for Justin to take off on a 17-yard run down the middle. After that quick 17-yard run by Justin, the offense kept on picking up critical first downs.

Justin trucks a Jenison defender.

“That big run at the start of the game pumped a ton of confidence into us,” senior Carter Kelly said. “Staying on the field allowed us to get comfortable running our plays.”

The Ranger offense was rewarded for its methodical drive down the field with a touchdown on the 14th play of the game, courtesy of senior Jacob Bonnett. The play, a jet sweep to the outside, encapsulated the whole game for FHC: great blocking, excellent execution, and hard-nosed running.

Jacob powers through a Wildcat defender for the first touchdown of the game.

On Jenison’s first offensive drive of the contest, FHC got a taste of what it’s like to defend Jenison’s senior playmaker, Caleb Dean. Dean took a handoff on a jet sweep and rounded the corner for a 16-yard gain past three FHC defenders right out of the gate. That eruption of yards moved the chains and set Jenison up for a quick drive down the field; however, FHC’s defensive front made up for some previous missed tackles in the secondary a few plays later.

“We went into the game with a lot of nerves, so we needed something to propel us forward for the rest of the game,” junior Crandall Quinn said. “Everyone did their job on that play, and we were able to make the pocket collapse and tackle the quarterback for a big loss.”

Following Crandall’s six-yard tackle for loss, sophomore JT Hartman tripped up Jenison’s quarterback Carter Van Manen as he tried to run to safety out of bounds, forcing Jenison to punt on fourth down. The score remained 6-0, in favor of FHC.

Down on his own 17-yard line, senior wideout Ben Scholler opened up FHC’s second drive of the game with a shifty nine-yard out route. Justin then broke through Jenison’s defensive line on his way to a 24-yard gain. FHC looked primed to punch the ball in again for six just two plays into its second drive of the game.

Ben jukes his way past a Wildcat defender.

Offensive coordinator Mike Ebbert elected to take a shot downfield towards Jacob to catch the Wildcats off guard. However, Jacob, who was streaking down the field on a go route parallel to Ben, lost the ball in the sun before he could get his hands on it. Two incomplete passes later, FHC was forced to punt it away.

According to NFL head coach John Harbaugh, “the thing about special teams—and I think football in general—is sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.” During the first quarter of Thursday’s game, the Ranger punt units ate the bear.

“My punt and our punt coverage shifted the momentum by pinning Jenison deep in their own territory,” senior Luke Gustafson said. “On top of that, Sam’s [Sneider]’s tackle on punt return put us in a great position to score.”

From one yard out, it seemed as if JT or Justin would be able to cross the end zone for another Ranger touchdown easily. One of the few botched handoffs of the night made things a little more interesting, though. Luckily for FHC, JT somehow had the wherewithal and reaction time to scoop the ball up and dive in for a touchdown.

JT celebrates his first varsity touchdown.

“I thought the running back [JT] did a nice job fighting for yards,” coach Rogers said. “He’ll settle in, he’s a very talented player, but he just needed someone to take a little pressure off of him.”

By the time halftime rolled around, FHC had maintained a 16-0 lead over Jenison.

Up until the second half, FHC focused on keeping possession of the ball through powerful run plays. Yet, in the second half, they began to look for the big play.

With five minutes left in the third quarter, Justin struck gold on a fade route to senior Conner Milton.

Justin calmly dropped back in the pocket, with all kinds of pressure in his grill, and lofted Conner the ball from 30 yards out to only a spot he could go and grab it. Using his 6’5 lanky frame, Conner rose above the Jenison corner and snagged the ball out of mid-air in front of the FHC parents.

Unfortunately for Jenison, the big plays didn’t stop there.

Every team has a “go-to” play, and for FHC, it’s a handoff to Jacob on a jet sweep. So, all the way back on their own 24, the Rangers drew up that same play. Justin motioned Jacob across the field in preparation for the handoff; he handed it off three yards back from the line of scrimmage. Thanks to a few solid double teams, Jacob swiftly turned up north towards the end zone. Once it turned into a foot race, he was long gone for a 76-yard touchdown—his second of the day.

Jacob jogs in for a 76-yard touchdown.

“Jacob and Conner helped me a lot in my decision making, considering they didn’t necessarily have to be wide open for me to throw to them,” Justin said. “I just had to throw it where they could make a play.”

To close out the game, Justin took a knee to give the Rangers a 29-14 victory over the Wildcats of Jenison. The Rangers are one of three teams in the OK White Conference with a win under their belt.

Looking ahead, FHC will host powerhouse Grand Blanc on Friday in front of what should be a packed crowd. Led by Eastern Michigan commit Elijah Jackson-Anderson, the Bobcats pose a significant challenge on offense. Coach Rogers believes that gang tackling will be the biggest key to slowing down an offense that torched a talented East Lansing team 40-34.

“We’re going to have to have 11 guys running to the ball because they’re a really good football team,” coach Rogers said. “We cannot rest, and we have to swarm the football every single play cause that kid can pop something.”