Rangers pummel Hawks, 43-15

Greg Eggleston leads charge in dominant win over Hendrickson

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Rangers pummel Hawks, 43-15

The Ranger Band performs the National Anthem prior to Friday night's 43-15 win over Pflugerville Hendrickson.

The Ranger Band performs the National Anthem prior to Friday night's 43-15 win over Pflugerville Hendrickson.

Jackson Posey

The Ranger Band performs the National Anthem prior to Friday night's 43-15 win over Pflugerville Hendrickson.

Jackson Posey

Jackson Posey

The Ranger Band performs the National Anthem prior to Friday night's 43-15 win over Pflugerville Hendrickson.

Jackson Posey, Sports Editor

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Led by an electric ground game and a much improved aerial attack, the Rangers picked up their first victory of the season in a 43-15 beatdown of Pflugerville Hendrickson.

The game began with the Rangers deferring the kickoff to the Hawks, which was just about the only advantage they would hand their opponents all game. After the defense shut down Xavier Lucio and his band of talented misfits on their first drive, the Ranger offense set up shop on its own 23-yard line. After a high snap resulted in an 11-yard loss, the sship righted quickly, as Greg Eggleston (9 rushes for 208 all-purpose and tw touchdowns) decided to begin his takeover game, blowing through the line for a 78-yard touchdown rush.

The moment was dampened a bit, however, by neither squad lasting even five plays before punting.
Hendrickson QB Lucio decided to dominate a drive after neither offense could muster more than five plays before punting.
After his 62-yard read-option touchdown was negated by a holding call, he decided to drop a dime over two Ranger defensive backs and into the outstretched arms of a diving Jaden Williams for 36 yards. Lucio then rushed for 10 yards, let the marker strike third down for the heck of it, and then tossed up a perfect lob into the end zone. There, Williams snagged the ball from cornerback Cullen Betsey along with a touchdown

The Rangers put up a long drive of their own, however, and (temporarily) regained the lead. A few plays into the second quarter, Lucio dropped an over-the-shoulder pass to a wide-open Williams. Unfortunately for the Hendrickson, their successful two-point conversion would represent the last points they could muster, as a lack of depth and role players ended up costing them big.

Ranger quarterback Luke Gombert followed Lucio’s performance with a quick interception, which seemed to get the jitters out of his system, as he turned his next two drives into long touchdown passes. The former was a 57-yard strike to junior Cooper Douglass, a favorite target of his. The latter was an 84-yarder to Greg Eggleston (remember him?), and sandwiched between was an Xavier Lucio pick.

In the second half, after a touchback on the punt, Hendrickson lined up on its own 20-yard line, down two scores. A false start pushed them back five yards. Another false start pushed them back another five yards. And guess what happened next? Yup. Another false start. After one play (a wide received screen) aimed at avoiding disaster, the Hawks decided to run the opposite, and Tanner Hobeck managed to scare Lucio into slipping on the new turf. Just like that, the Rangers led, 37-15.

Aside from some running from backup running back Gabe Hoskins and a cameo from freshman offensive lineman Colton Thomasson, that was about it for a game that was never really in doubt for the Rangers. Hendrickson put up a fight early in the second half, but in the end, they were just too thin at too many key positions to compete.

Three keys to victory:

1. The running game

The Rangers’ top four running backs – Jacob Forton, Eggleston, Hoskins and Braxton Bounds – combined for 322 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries. A dominant rushing attack is key with helping along the development of a new quarterback. Speaking of which:

2. A new passing game connection

In last week’s game recap, I lamented Luke Gombert’s lack of chemistry with his wideouts. And although the problem was understandable and not completely fixed, the two parties’ newfound melding became apparent. With Gombert leading the charge, the offense always seemed to be on the same page. Yes, there are still growing pains, but the on-field product is now much closer to “seamless” than “covered in seams.”

And a big part of that is junior wide receiver Cooper Douglass, who was targeted three times in the first three drives. He finished with two catches for 66 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, in which he bobbled a slightly overthrown deep ball back to himself while still in stride. The more comfortable Gombert (who finished 8/16 for 202 yards, two scores and a pick) feels with his receiving staff, the less pressure will fall onto the shoulder of Forton and Friends, which will allow the stable of backs to thrive even more than they already are.

3. The pass rush

This will be a recurring theme throughout these columns, but the Rangers have an incredible pass rush. It led to a tipped ball interception for Tanner Hobeck in the opener and led to even more heroics this week. Sacks were credited to Garrett Brooks, Darlington Frasch and Connor Hambrick. Hobeck pressured Lucio into slipping for that safety, and Betsey’s interception was on a play in which Hendrickson’s diminutive quarterback felt plenty of heat.

The Rangers played a great game on Friday. Gombert seems to be coming out of his shell, and the running game is clicking. The pass rush is still dominant, and the defensive backs played incredible. Heck, even kicker Joaquin Rodriguez stayed perfect. Just about everything went right for the Rangers against Hendrickson.

But the best measure of a team’s true ability is how it fares when faced with adversity. Next week’s matchup at San Antonio Madison might just be the most important important game yet.

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