One of the most anticipated games in the area will kick off this evening in Hamilton as the Orrick Bearcats and Penney Hornets tangle in the Class 1Sectional.
The 7 p.m. meeting features the top-ranked and defending champion Bearcats, who are on a 25-game winning streak, and the Hornets, who are also undefeated and ranked No. 3.
And of course, both teams are coming off convincing wins in their Regional games on Wednesday night – Orrick rolling over Maysville 38-0 in a weather-shortened contest, and Hamilton thumping Braymer 35-0.
Both teams also feature outstanding running attacks. While Orrick has averaged over 8 yards per carry, the Hornets average just under 8 yards an attempt.
Trevor Dixon has been the workhorse for coach Dave Fairchild’s crew.
Dixon has 19 touchdowns and leads the team with 693 rushing yards, followed by Dylan Chadwick who has 550 yards on 69 attempts with 8 touchdowns, and Keagan Prather, who has 497 yards on 48 carries with 7 touchdowns.
“They’re explosive and we’ve got to stop them before they get going,” Orrick Coach Pat Richard said. “The thing we’ve talked to the kids about is they are a lot like playing against South Shelby last year. You have got to make them dance sideways, rally to the ball and make tackles. I think if we do that, we’ll be all right.”
The added threat from Hamilton comes with the arm of quarterback Cale Brown who has completed 36 of 50 passes for 577 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception.
“They really like to run the ball and coach Fairchild has been doing it for a long time,” Richard said. “He’s had a lot of success. They’ll pound it at you and make you stop it. The Brown kid at quarterback is a pretty good thrower and they are pretty multi-dimensional.”
While both teams are similar on offense, they are also both on even footing as far as the defense is concerned and taking the ball away from their opponents.
The Bearcats have lost just one fumble and one interception, while the defense has intercepted 16 passes and recovered 22 enemy fumbles.
Hamilton has lost 3 fumbles and one interception, while the defense has come up with 15 fumble recoveries, and 14 interceptions.
Richard said the game will come down to controlling the line of scrimmage and taking care of the football.
“I think we’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball all year,” he said. “They’re kind of like us in that they get that short field because people turn the ball over against them.
We’ve just got to take care of the football, run hard and get downhill and just see who’s stronger up front.”
Richard adds that this will be one of the few games where his line will hold a size advantage. Another advantage for Orrick is in playoff experience.
The Hornets are making their first post-season appearance since 1996 when they advanced to the Class 2A quarterfinals before being eliminated by Grain Valley.
Richard said he noticed his team stepping up as preparations began for the Regional matchup with Maysville.
“I could really sense a completely different mentality in the locker room prior to the game and all week at practice,” he explained. “We practiced with a purpose. Now’s the time we looked forward to all year long after lifting all those weights in the winter, spring and summer and doing all that work.
This is what we point for and all that work we put in pays off and hopefully it will again this year.”