Defense wins championships.
The Orrick Bearcat defense continues to make a strong case that they have what it takes to carry them to another Class 1 title. Another example was presented Monday night in the cool, damp environment in Hamilton at the sectional collision with the No. 3 ranked Penney High Hornets.
After a scoreless first half, the Bearcat offense shook off its miscues to post three touchdowns which was more than enough for the Orrick defenders in an 18-0 victory, and a date with West Platte Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals to be played at Tiger Stadium in Excelsior Springs.
The 11-1 Blue Jays defeated East Buchanan 33-19 Monday in their sectional meeting.
Hamilton entered Monday night’s game with an offense averaging 48 points a game, while the ground game chewed up close to 300 yards an outing. Quarterback Cale Brown had completed 72 percent of his passes for over 600 yards.
When the night was over, the top-ranked Bearcats had chalked up its ninth shutout of the season and limited the Hornets to 123 yards of total offense, while holding Brown to just 3 completions in 8 attempts for 27 yards.
Orrick Coach Pat Richard felt his defenders had a solid night.
“They’ve got explosive kids,” he said. “They are really good up front and very physical. That was a war we just fought. We were lucky enough to not only survive it, but to get through it and win.”
The Bearcat offense ran the ball 56 times for 268 yards with Aaron Blyth getting a majority of the carries. The explosive back was called on 28 times and delivering 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“He ran hard,” Richard said of his 5-7, 152-pound junior. “He’s tough. He was a little dinged up and he overcame that. That’s a testament to his will. He decided he wasn’t going to go down tonight – we weren’t going home tonight.”
Although they moved the ball in the first half, the Bearcats had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. Orrick proved to be its own worst enemy throughout the game as the Bearcats were flagged 12 times for a loss of 75 yards in penalties, while Hamilton drew 5 flags for 35 yards.
The Bearcats first two drives of the game ended on the Hamilton 27- and 9-yard line. Orrick had 5 of its penalties in the first half for a walkoff of 30 yards. The first possession of the second half was a different story. The Bearcats took the kickoff and marched 74 yards in 11 plays, with Blyth sweeping around left end for the final 15 yards and a 6-0 Bearcat lead with 5:12 left in the third period. It was just the beginning of another second-half post-season performance that Orrick fans have become accustomed to.
“It was a true testament to our kids will and toughness,” Richard said. “We had every opportunity to get in that first half and we keep blowing it. Our kids did not hang their heads. We preach to them about finishing games and how the second half is our time. You look back, and from our playoff games last year to now – we dominate the second half.”
Orrick put any hopes of a Hornet comeback to rest two possessions later. As the Orrick defense put the clamps on the Hamilton offense, the Bearcats put together another impressive, time-consuming drive by moving from their own 36 to the end zone in a dozen plays. The big play coming on third and 12 from the Bearcat 34, as Joe Kaufman, who hit 2 of his 3 pass attempts, found Matt O’Dell for a 23-yard connection.
“We had to have that pass and we’ve been working on it for eight weeks and never thrown it in a game,” Richard said. “We finally did it and it was there. Matt made a great catch and Joe made a great throw. That kept it alive and allowed us to grind it the rest of the way down the field.”
Nine plays later, Blyth scored on a 7-yard burst off right tackle with 3:28 left in the game. The Bearcats added one more score as they were running out the clock with Kaufman breaking loose for a 35-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining. Kaufman’s burst helped him end the night with 60 rushing yards on 9 carries. Kalija Rogers picked up 48 rushing yards for Orrick on 10 attempts, and Logan Eubank added 38 yards on 9 carries.
Dylan Chadwick led the Hamilton rushing chart with 34 yards on 4 carries – 26 of those on the second play of the game, with Keagan Prather adding 32 yards on 9 attempts.
PHOTO: The Bearcat defense led by Leslee Eubank (67) and Cameron McGlothlin (70) swarm Hamilton quarterback Cale Brown. Orrick held the Hornets to 123 yards of offense. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News.)