Boys JV soccer closes the season at 7-7-1 led by stellar defensive performances

Boys JV soccer closes the season at 7-7-1 led by stellar defensive performances

A brisk cold breeze passed by the JV soccer team as the boys exited Ranger Stadium for the last time this year. The story of the 2021 Rangers’ season seemed to be consistent with improvement on the small details.

Forest Hills Central started the year hungry and itching to compete; any information the coaching staff threw at the team was soaked up.

“At the start of the year, specifically the preseason, was phenomenal,” head coach Robert Otterbein stated. “The team came into the season wanting to be in the best physical and mental shape they could.”

Although the boys entered the season primed for success, their start was not as they expected. Out-of-conference play started the Rangers season and brought some learning lessons. In their first six games, the Rangers split evenly going 3-3. A .500 start was not flawless; however, the team showed signs of improvement in communication and overall effort. 

“We did not start the way we planned but that was a huge moment in our season,” sophomore Ryan Brom said. “3-3 does not jump out at you but we learned many small adjustments that would help us the rest of the year.”

After the sixth game, FHC had one of its first conference games of the season. In this matchup, the Rangers matched up against the East Grand Rapids Pioneers. This game, like many, was dominated by the defense. Communication and movement were key in order for the Rangers to stay in the game. Freshman Dylan Buchanan tallied the first goal in the game for FHC making it 1-1 at the half. With minutes remaining and the score locked at 1-1, someone from FHC had to come up clutch. Sophomore Chris Dongmo stepped up for the Rangers by scoring with barely any time on the clock; the Rangers would slither past the Pioneers 2-1.

Next on the clock was the Northview Wildcats. A mix of stellar defense and efficient offense would guide FHC to one of its best performances of the year. Offensively, the team played unselfish ball, which led to four different scorers in the game: Chris Dongmo, Dylan Buchanan, Jacob Robertson, and Matthew Taylor. Also, Charlie Afman added two assists and Jackson Savin had one. Although Matthew Taylor scored on the offensive end, his role in the defensive pressure was immaculate. He helped the team communicate endlessly which resulted in zero Wildcat goals. The Wildcats were no match for FHC; the Rangers would exit victoriously winning 4-0. 

With a big win, the boys celebrated it for a just moment. A tough three-game stretch was ahead of them: Byron Center, Portage Northern, and rival Forest Hills Northern. In those three games, the majority of the leadership came from the defense.

FHC scored two goals in the three games coming from Chris Dongmo. Against Byron, the defense rose to the occasion, as they did in many games, but could not carry out a win; Byron Center toppled the Rangers 1-0. The Portage Northern game was identical in pace, but Chris added one goal to make the score 1-1. Forest Hills Northern, arguably the Rangers’ toughest opponent, would give the boys some fits. A defensive breakdown in communication would hinder FHC, as the Huskies would plummet the Rangers. This three-game stretch was certainly a pivotal learning moment for the team.

“In these three games, the team struggled, but we did not hide from it,” Jackson Savin said. “We bonded together and improved on the small details.”

The final game of the regular season approached, and FHC entered the game against South Christian. Communication and energy were emphasized heading into the big-time matchup. In the first 15 minutes, both teams had a minimal amount of opportunities, but when South Christian pressured the Rangers, FHC started to crumble.

In a six-minute period, the Sailors scored four goals to create a 4-0 lead. Although goalie Brendan Ramsey gave in a few goals, he was active around the goal and saved a plethora of shots. The saves continued from Ramsey and Nathan Rushman added a goal to the scoreboard. In the end, the Rangers would not prevail against the Sailors, losing 6-1. 

Heading into the conference tournament, the team emphasized improving on the small details. A familiar foe would be its first matchup. The Huskies of Forest Hills Northern came in confident as ever after beating FHC 8-1 previously in the season. However, the Rangers displayed the new adjustments and it made a vast difference. In a low-scoring game, the defenses were relied upon to consistently get stops. FHC suffered one slip up, a Northern goal with ten minutes remaining would give FHN the edge 1-0. Although the Rangers didn’t win, they exhibited the development that was going on within the JV soccer program. In their final two games, the team played its best soccer and defeated Greenville and Byron Center. Revenge against Byron could not have been sweeter for the team.

“I could not have asked for a better end of the season,” Coach Robert Otterbein said. “Two big-time wins is something we can build on heading into next year and the team has a lot of confidence now.”