Defense hangs tough, but offense struggles to move the ball

No one said this game would be easy for the Rangers.

On one side of the ball the Rangers were facing one of the top quarterbacks in the state, Tanner Omlid. On the other side of the ball, the Rangers were without their top two starting quarterbacks, who were both down with injuries.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, those two things added up to a 27-0 loss to the Central Panthers on Friday night.

With starting quarterback Bryan Rhone out with a concussion and Marty Garcialazo out with a knee injury, head coach Brigham Baker turned the reins over to junior wide receiver Ryan Vauthier. With the threat of passing almost non-existent, the Rangers would line up in a two-tight-end set with three running backs lined up horizontally behind Vauthier.

'I thought Ryan (Vauthier) did a great job for us tonight, especially for a kid who has only played quarterback for two days,' Baker said.

The problem was that none of them could find a hole to run through. After a quick three-and-out to start the game, the Rangers punted it away, allowing Central to take over at Estacada's 40-yard line.

While the Rangers struggled to find holes offensively, the powerful Central offense had no such problem. After a couple of successful running plays, Omlid found Donavon Hampton for a 25-yard touchdown as Hampton broke a couple of tackles on his way to the end zone.

After a delay-of-game penalty stymied the Rangers' second drive, Omlid struck again for the Panthers. This time he found tight end Branden Cutsforth wide open down the middle of the field after a play-action fake froze the defense and Cutsforth strolled in from 49 yards out. After a failed extra point, the Panthers had a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.

On their third drive of the game, Estacada seemed to finally be clicking on offense. After taking over at their own 28, the Rangers drove all the way to Central's 31-yard line, but that drive was stopped short by a costly fumble.

'We just need to work on squeezing the ball more in practice,' Baker said, 'because with three fumbles in two straight games you can point that finger straight at me as the head coach.'

Fortunately, the Panthers returned the favor after driving inside the Rangers' 15-yard line before fumbling it right back to Estacada. After punting and turning the ball over on downs on their final two drives of the half, the Rangers headed into the locker room still down only 13-0.

Central came out firing in the second half, however, as a quick 59-yard drive was capped off by an easy 13-yard touchdown run from Omlid that extended the lead to 21-0.

Later in the third, Estacada had their best chance to score when Central fumbled the ball on their own 18-yard line. After a pass interference call kept the Estacada drive moving, the Rangers faced first and goal from inside the 10, but four straight run plays failed to move the ball into the end zone and the Rangers' turned it over on downs.

After taking over at their own 2, Central buried the dagger in the hearts of all of the Estacada fans as they marched 98 yards for their fourth touchdown of the game to put the score at 27-0.

Omlid finished the game hitting 16 of 21 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns to go with 26 yards rushing and another touchdown. Hampton finished with 124 yards receiving on six catches, while Cutsforth finished with 92 yards on four catches.

The lone bright spot for the Rangers offense was senior T. Jay Barber, who finished the game with 15 carries for 94 yards. Junior Brandon Beck also added 52 yards on the ground for Estacada.

'This is the team we have, and we're going to go to battle with,' Baker said, 'and that is who we are focusing on, and I think we can win every game we play with the kids we have out here because the kids who aren't here are non-factors.'

The Rangers travel to face Newport next week.

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