Devastation and disappointment cloud varsity football’s last game of the year


Joel Bissell

Seniors Jacob Bonnett and Quentin Rudolph reminisce about their football careers at FHC.

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to end—not like this,” echoed through the heads of seniors Jacob Bonnett and Quentin Rudolph as they were lying down on the turf of Ranger Stadium after Friday night’s pre-district game against Mona Shores.

“After the game, it sucked,” Jacob said. “Putting in all the work and all the effort before the season and the three years leading up to this just to get knocked out in the first round was a hard pill to swallow.”

Considering that this year’s senior class wraps up its football career with a 30-6 record over the past four years, that reaction isn’t surprising; seniors like Jacob, Quentin, and Tyler Weaver aren’t accustomed to the taste of defeat. More importantly, though, they aren’t used to hanging up their pads this early on in the postseason.

“We’re a close-knit group with great chemistry—that alone has helped us win,” senior Luke Gustafson said. “We play for each other, and that helped us accomplish some great things in the postseason over the past few years.”

Prior to kickoff, the game plan was straightforward: stop Mark Konecny at all costs.

“The game plan centered around stopping their [the Sailors] QB the best that we could,” Jacob said .”So basically, we focused on preventing any deep balls from him and also containing him in the run game.”

The 6’0, 200-pound Konecny, who has a cannon for an arm and has averaged 140 yards through the air this season, can be a two-headed monster to stop when Mona Shores gets its veer offense chugging along. 

Early on in the rematch from last year’s second-round district thriller, Konecny got Mona Shores on the scoreboard with a two-yard touchdown run. Even though it was a dreary night in terms of weather, Mona Shores sent out its extra point unit to try to extend the lead to 7-0. However, senior Nathan Sarjeant flew in and confused the Mona kicker, prompting Konecny to get up off his knee and roll out to the right. Junior Raymond Cargill closed in on Konecny as he got closer and closer to the sideline, but Raymond couldn’t yank him down. Konecny ended up connecting with one of his receivers for the two-point conversion. Luckily for FHC, a late flag was thrown.

Konecny rolls out of the pocket after the extra-point snap was bobbled.

All of that effort to stay in bounds went to waste, as the surging Sailors were called for a holding penalty. So, on the next play, they had to settle for a field goal. At the 11:58 mark of the second quarter, Mona led 7-0.

For the first time ever this season, FHC was scoreless after one-quarter of action. On top of that, Luke had to punt it away two times in the first quarter—he punted it twice a week ago against East Grand Rapids. 

“I just felt like everyone was a little bit off,” senior Hunter Robinson admitted. “Obviously, the emotions were high heading into the game; I don’t think very many people, including myself, handled them very well.”

The early stages of the second quarter were eerily similar to the beginning of the first quarter, as Luke booted it into the air after another three and out. His 85-yard punt rolled into the end zone, setting Konecny and the Sailors up at their own 25-yard line.

Just like they did at the end of the first quarter, the Sailors’ offense plowed down the field. To cap off another bruising drive, a 22-yard run from Konency would set up a 15-yard touchdown run for running back Dahmir Farnum. 

It was not the start that the Rangers anticipated.

“We obviously wanted to get out to a fast start,” senior guard Carter Kelly said. “Down 14-0 in the second quarter to such a good team like them [the Sailors] wasn’t how we envisioned things going.”

On the ensuing drive for FHC, the sluggish start continued when Hunter missed the mark on a third down and eight. His pass was out of reach for senior wideout Ben Scholler, and yet again, the punt unit grudgingly jogged back onto the field with five minutes left in the second quarter.

Luke punts it away for the third time on Friday night.

A prominent theme in Friday’s contest was fourth-down conversions, specifically short-yardage ones. Time after time, Mona’s ball carriers were able to squeak their way through the pile and move the chains for a first down. So, when Mona Shores head coach Matt Koziak had to decide whether or not to go for it on fourth and one on his own 31-yard line, FHC knew what was coming next. 

Thanks to an effective push from his offensive line, Konecny picked up a demoralizing first down on a quarterback power run play. 

Three plays later, Konecny would rifle a shot downfield for a streaking Jaylen Vinton for a fifty-yard touchdown. Mona Shores led by a resounding 21 points at the two-minute mark of the second quarter. 

Konecny lets one rip downfield towards his Jaylen Vinton.

By the time FHC’s offense came back onto the field after Vinton’s 50-yard touchdown reception that put Mona up 21-0, Hunter was intent on taking more shots down the field.

“We tried switching it up towards the end of the half and started taking more shots down the field, which I feel like we could’ve even done at the start of the game,” Hunter said.

With FHC desperately in need of a spark a minute before halftime, what better way to get on the scoreboard than by targeting arguably Hunter’s most reliable target, Ben Scholler. Ben made the Sailors’ secondary pay for lackadaisical man coverage and caught a beautiful 52-yard pass from Hunter. Then, Luke split the uprights, narrowing the deficit to two touchdowns.

Ben Scholler gets Ranger Stadium roaring once more with a massive touchdown.

Ranger Stadium was rocking.

“That touchdown gave us a lot of confidence going into the second half, knowing if we got one stop, we were right back in the game,” Ben said. 

During halftime, head coach Tim Rogers and his staff were fully aware that their defense had to step up as a unit. Those messages were heard loud and clear by pivotal leaders like senior Jack McNamara, who, along with sophomore Tyler Hudkins, racked up a team-high five tackles. 

Head coach Tim Rogers and junior Raymond Cargill sit and watch the film.

“We had a great game plan going into the game, and I think it worked throughout the game,” Jack said. “But yes, we tweaked a few things. We decided to send more pressure off the sides and load the box with a safety. Overall, our defense played well, in my opinion. They just had the ball a lot.”

In the second half, no matter what the final score read, FHC’s defense came to life. Aside from a touchdown scamper from Dahmir Farmun and a field goal, the Rangers put up several stands against a potent Mona Shores offense. Among those stands was a fumble recovery and turnover on downs, both of which kept hope alive in Ranger Stadium.

The Rangers celebrate a fumble recovery.

Despite FHC’s valiant effort, Mona Shores’ offense kept on eating up the clock. The saying goes, “a team that can get your team off the field is dangerous, but a team that can keep them off the field is lethal.” And by the looks of Friday’s game, Mona Shores was the latter.

“Mona’s offense wasn’t the most electric or big-play oriented offense in the state, but they [the Sailors] do such a good job of chewing up the clock and keeping their opponent’s offense on the sidelines,” junior corner Levi McKenzie said.

Down the stretch of the game, as soon as each FHC senior realized that not even a miracle could send them ahead in the playoffs, the tears started—tears for the senior class last season that controversially came up short against Brady Rose and Mona Shores. 

Hunter and Gerrit embrace after the loss.

“We felt like a win in the game on Friday wouldn’t just be for ourselves and the community, but it was also for the seniors last year that had their season cut short,” senior Gerrit Timmer said. “That’s why the loss hurt so much.”

Following the 31-7 loss to the MHSAA Division 2 Defending State Champions, the varsity football team’s overall record fell to 8-2. 

“That wasn’t how we wanted to end our season,” Jacob said. “It was so emotional walking off of that field for the last time.”

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for a wrap-up in the next few days on the varsity football team’s impressive season.