RICHLAND — A little while ago, Forest Hills did not look too much like a playoff-caliber football team.
The Rangers lost three of their first five games and found themselves near the bottom of the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference standings.
But, since then, coach Don Bailey’s squad has been one of the best in the region. On Friday night, Forest Hills closed out the regular season with its fifth straight victory, a 43-0 thumping of Philipsburg-Osceola at Richland High School’s Herlinger Field, which hosted the game because the Rangers’ G.H. Miller Field was waterlogged by this week’s heavy rains. The win improved Forest Hills to 7-3 as it gets ready to compete in the District 6 Class AA playoffs next weekend.
“When we were 2-3, I was wondering how we were going to finish. I was hoping maybe we’d finish 5-5,” said Bailey. “But these kids have put together a string of five wins in a row now, and they’ve beaten some pretty good teams along the way.”
It was the Rangers’ best offensive performance since they put up 44 points against Westmont in the first week.
With the loss, the Mounties, who dressed only slightly more than 20 players on Friday, ended their season 0-10.
“This was a big win, but that team has been depleted by injuries,” Bailey said. “They’ve had a rough season. They, of course, ended up 0-10. They were still competitive (against us). They gave us a good game in the first half. We made some mistakes that kept them in the game.”
Forest Hills pounded the ball at Philipsburg-Osceola, gaining 383 yards on the ground.
Senior running back Shawn Dell contributed a game-high 189 yards on only nine carries. He scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, including a 91-yarder with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter. He also pulled in a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Donoughe. Fellow running back Jared Krug contributed 101 rushing yards despite not getting a carry until the fourth quarter. He added a pair of late touchdowns with the longest covering 65 yards.
“We ran the football, and that’s what I was pleased with,” Bailey said. “We rotated our offensive line between our seniors and our underclassmen. I was pleased with both of them. Shawn Dell had a nice game. Jared Krug had a nice game running the football. To go anywhere in the playoffs you’ve got to be able to run the football. That’s what we’re hoping we’re able to do.”
Defensively, Forest Hills limited the Mounties to 172 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers, including an interception by cornerback Shareef Blough.
The Rangers twice stopped P-O on four-down goal-line stands. One occurred in the waning seconds of the first half when Forest Hills led by 15 points. Then, in the third quarter, the Rangers turned away their opponents again after facing a first-and-goal from the four. The threat ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down.
“That’s been our thing all year is consistency,” said Philipsburg-Osceola coach Jeff Vroman. “We’d get down there, we’d have a play called, we’d have a breakdown here and there. That’s just what happens. That’s just been it for 10 weeks. It’s unfortunate because I think if we would have punched that one in in the first half this could have been a little different. Then, in the second half, of course, we had another opportunity (at the goal line).
The Mounties received 55 and 53 rushing yards, respectively, from Conner Mann and Dustin Shuey.