Varsity football inches closer and closer to an outright OK White title after a 31-0 victory over Byron Center on Senior Night


FHC poses for a post-game team picture.

Senior middle linebacker and MLive Week 7 Player of the Week Tyler Weaver doesn’t like to share.

“Last season, we lost to Byron, giving them a share of the OK White,” Tyler said. “This year, the team is hungry for more, and you can see that from our blowout win against them. The boys are getting better each week, and we’re looking to come out like champs and not share the title with any team.”

A disdain for sharing, specifically with inner-conference foe Byron Center, is prevalent in the varsity football locker room as well, especially since the Rangers had to share the OK White Conference title with the Bulldogs in 2020. That alone would be enough to shatter a relationship between two teams. On top of sharing the OK White title in 2020, though, the Bulldogs also handed the Rangers a 35-14 thumping on Friday, October 2.

This time around, with an outright conference title on the horizon for FHC and the pageantry of Senior Night lingering in the past, the Rangers returned the favor in the form of 31 unanswered points. 

At the forefront of that 31-point barrage was senior glue guy Ben Scholler, who caught two touchdown passes and had a dagger-of-an interception in the later stages of the fourth quarter. Head coach Tim Rogers has seen plenty of bittersweet Senior Night performances, including Mason Wiltz’s last season in which he forced and recovered a game-clinching fumble. However, Ben’s senior-night performance on Friday against Byron Center has to be one of the better one’s coach Rogers has seen in a while.

He [Ben] did well on defense and did well on both sides of the ball; he did an outstanding job,” Rogers said. “He’s a senior, he’s been around, he’s played a lot of football, and it doesn’t surprise me. I’m just happy he had a Senior Night like that.”

Prior to Ben’s breakout on offense, it was the running game that got FHC’s engine churning early. Senior left guard Carter Kelly was a big piece of the running attack that opened up a few sizeable holes for sophomore JT Hartman. On the first play of FHC’s first offensive drive, senior quarterback Hunter Robinson got the play call from up above in the booth and handed the ball off to JT. JT hesitated for a second and blasted through a hole set up by a Carter Kelly pancake. An arm tackle by a Byron Center defender wouldn’t be enough to take down the sophomore, and JT was able to fight for three more yards before being brought down on Byron’s own 45-yard line.

JT Hartman powers through an arm tackle for a first down.

“We wanted to punch them [the Bulldogs] in the mouth early on,” Carter said, “and I think we did a great job of doing that on our first drive on offense.”

Two plays later, Hunter took his left guard’s words to heart by deciding to keep the ball on a read-option play and fighting for an eight-yard gain. To cap off the drive, JT ran it up the gut for a six-yard Ranger touchdown. As he has done all year, senior Luke Gustafson, or as coach Rogers would call him, “Gussy,” knocked in the extra point to give FHC a 7-0 lead over Byron Center with four minutes left in the first quarter of action.

The referee signals a touchdown.

“I thought the offense ran the ball really well, which was very important,” coach Rogers said. “And the kicking game was excellent—Gussy has done an excellent job [so far].”

Luke Gustafson boots in the extra point.

Heading into Byron’s second drive of the game, FHC’s defense looked to stuff the Bulldogs once again and force another punt. Senior safety Quentin Rudolph sent a message swiftly, chopping Byron quarterback Hunter Schichtel down for a minimal one-yard gain. Despite a solid start on defense from FHC, the Bulldogs’ offense brought out a trick play handoff and two passes to move the chains all the way down to the Rangers’ nine-yard line. The Bulldogs advancements were held in check, as they were dealt a ten-yard penalty for a false start. That penalty backed them up to FHC’s 19-yard line. Junior Crandall Quinn would chase down a Bulldog receiver for no gain on the next play, giving the Rangers the upper hand. 

With a third and 19 on the horizon for Byron, it didn’t look as if Hunter Schichtel would be able to get his team a first down. Senior outside linebacker Conner Milton, who racked up two sacks and two tackles for loss on Friday, made it his mission to sack Schichtel in the backfield during that third and 19 play. Conner’s all-out blitz was countered with an excellent block from tailback Jason Sevigny, but his penetration was enough to get the lefty quarterback off his spot in the pocket and force him to tuck it and run. Luckily for FHC, sophomore Tyler Hudkins dragged Schichtel down 13 yards short of the first down line.

Conner Milton drags down Byron’s quarterback for a key sack.

Conner didn’t just leave his fingerprint on the game defensively, as he went on to block Byron’s field goal attempt on the ensuing play. At the nine-minute mark of the second quarter, FHC still maintained a 7-0 lead.

“After that missed field goal, we knew that we had to capitalize on that missed opportunity by them and go down and score,” Conner said.

Ben Scholler and the FHC offense did, in fact, capitalize off Byron’s missed field goal attempt after Ben caught an 18-yard dime from Hunter. Then, Luke Gustafson booted in the extra point to give FHC a 14-0 lead with three minutes left until intermission.

Ben catches a beautiful pass from Hunter for his first touchdown of the night.

Heading into halftime, a 20-yard field goal from Luke extended the Ranger’s lead to 17 points.

The taste of defeat still stuck in the Rangers’ mouths at the end of halftime, so they weren’t satisfied with just a 14-point lead. All season, the jet sweep handoff to senior Jacob Bonnett has been the bread and butter of an FHC offense that has run for 206 yards per game. Knowing that Byron would key in on Jacob whenever he would be motioned over on Friday, offensive coordinator Mike Ebbert elected to fake the jet sweep handoff and instead look downfield for an open receiver. So, with that play in coach Ebbert’s back pocket, he opted to call it at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter while his team was on Byron’s 45-yard line.

“Coach Ebbert knows how lethal those jet sweeps can be,” Jacob admitted. “But, we also know as a team that there are some really talented players like Ben who can make big plays in big moments.”

Hunter motioned Jacob across the field, disguising the eventual deep pass as a jet sweep. Once it hit Byron that it wasn’t a jet sweep, Ben Scholler was already streaking ahead on a corner route. As Ben opened his hips towards the sidelines and turned upfield, Hunter slung the ball on a rope for Ben to make a play. Ben was wide open; he caught Hunter’s pass for a 45-yard touchdown. Again, Luke split the uprights to put FHC up 24-0.

Ben finds open grass and turns it upfield.

“It felt great to extend the lead to 24 points,” Ben said. “That play was the dagger we needed to run away with the game.”

Ahead by 24 points, Ben and FHC had already delivered enough blows to knock Byron out of the game. For Jacob, though, that wasn’t enough. 

Facing a fourth down and 15 on their own 25 with 1:22 left in the third, the Bulldogs had no other choice but to punt it away to one of the most dangerous punt returners in the West Michigan area. There’s no better way to describe the punt return than the way FHC’s play-by-play announcer Brad Anderson did:

“Number 19 shakes and bakes.”

“He gets up the sideline!”

“Jacob Bonnett gets a little space, and he gets into the endzone!”

“Jacob Bonnett on Senior Night scores a Ranger Country Touchdown!”

Adam Carpenter celebrates Jacob’s electric punt return.

Those words don’t just come from the mouth of Brad Anderson but also from the mouth of every FHC community member that remembers the heartbreaking district-final loss to Mona Shores last season. Throughout this season, the FHC faithful have used that controversial loss to fuel their pride for their 7-1 varsity football team. Senior Will Richardson hopes to use his community’s pride as motivation to beat East Grand Rapids next week and make a deep playoff run.

“It’s so cool to see the fans at every game to support us,” Will said. “We want to make them proud; a deep playoff run would do just that.”

Looking ahead, coach Rogers hopes that his team can finish the job next week by beating East Grand Rapids. If the Rangers come out victorious next week against the surging Pioneers, they will be rewarded with an OK White outright title—an outright title that eluded FHC last season.

“That was a big win for us on Friday because it potentially was the last home game for the seniors,” Rogers said. “I hope it’s not, and I don’t think it will be. But if it is, we went out with style. We have the opportunity to do something special, so we’re just focused on battling it out with East [Grand Rapids] next week.”