Their defense of the Class 1 state football title continues for the Orrick Bearcats. The first stop will be at Tiger Stadium in Excelsior Springs tonight as they host the Maysville Wolverines in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Instead of being the hunter like last season, the defending state champions have turned into the hunted, but it has not seemed to be a burden. Orrick has rolled through the regular season with an offense that averages over 300 yards a game on the ground, and a defense that has registered seven shutouts. The Bearcats winning streak has reached a state-high 24 games, but coach Pat Richard said the attitude of his team has not changed from last season.
“Last year we went into the playoffs thinking that maybe we had a shot to win it all and I think we do this year, too,” he said. “We’ve got to get some breaks like we got last year and stay injury free. The mindset is pretty much the same. You have a job to do each week and it’s a short time span between games, so you have to do a good job of getting ready quickly and I think our kids do a good job of that.”
The Wolverines are making their second playoff appearance in as many years under coach Greg O’Connor. Maysville was eliminated in the first round last year by Princeton. The Wolverines will bring a 5-5 mark to the contest, but Richard said you cannot judge them by their season showing.
“They’re a lot better than 5-5,” he said. “They’re going to be ready, too. No matter what their record is – you get them here in the playoffs and everybody is 0-0.”
The senior-dominated Wolverines run an option offense that averages just under 6 yards a carry. Senior running back Charlie Webber leads the balanced rushing attack with 564 yards and averages 6.2 yards per attempt with 5 touchdowns.
Another senior, Jake Rhoad has picked up 451 yards on the ground at 6.3 yards a carry, and has found the end zone 7 times.
Quarterback Jake Mazurkewycz has gained 247 rushing yards (7.97 per carry) and has completed 30 of 83 passes for 590 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ethan Heimbaugh leads the team in receptions with 11 for 181 yards.
Richard said the Wolverines have plenty of offensive talent for his defense to deal with.
“They are explosive with the run game,” he said. “With that misdirection they use, it’s tough. They use a lot of multiple formations so you have to do a good job of being disciplined and finding the ball on defense and making your adjustments and hopefully slow them down a little bit.”
Richard was concerned about his Bearcats’ sluggish outing at Braymer two weeks ago, but liked the way his team responded in last week’s 42-0 win at St. Mary’s.
“I think that Braymer game was real good for us,” Richard explained. “I think it mentally woke us up, and physically we saw a lot of things we needed to work on. I thought we did a great job of working on it prior to that game and it showed up on Friday. I think we have continued that this week.”
Richard expects to see the same type of defense his team has faced most of the season. Maysville, which normally runs a four-man front, will more than likely show some five-man and some six-man fronts to slow down the Bearcat running machine.
“Their front kids have pretty decent size so we’re really going to have to get off the ball and move them around,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of linebacker type kids who run around and make a lot of tackles. They’ll be tough to run the ball against and if you make a mistake they are there to jump on it.”
Webber leads the Wolverine tackle chart with 50 solo stops and 34 assisted. Defensive lineman Zach Eads and Rhoad at linebacker have made 46 tackles apiece this season with Rhoad picking off 3 of Maysville’s 7 interceptions.