The Orrick Bearcats defense has made a name for itself this season. The Bearcat defenders have faced just about every type of attack from opposing offenses, and have responded by tossing nine shutouts.
On Saturday, top-ranked Orrick faces West Platte in the Class 1 quarterfinal in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Tiger Stadium in Excelsior Springs.
The Bearcats ran their winning streak to 26 games on Monday night in shutting out the No. 3 ranked Hornets in Hamilton, 18-0. In that victory, Orrick held a very talented Hamilton rushing attack to 96 yards.
On Saturday, the Bearcats face a different attack with quarterback Ryan Humes guiding the Blue Jay offense. The senior signal caller is on the same pace as last year when he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and passed for over 2,700 more.
Bearcat Head Coach Pat Richard said Humes is the best quarterback his team has faced in his nine years at Orrick.
“He’s a special kid, a special athlete,” Richard said. “He can really run the football with power and he has speed. Then he can throw the football a mile. They’ve done the smart thing and pretty much centered their entire offense around him, and he does a good job of running that offense.”
The 10-1 Blue Jays defeated Mid Buchanan for the third time this season in their sectional Monday night in Weston, 33-19. Humes was the deciding factor as he ran for 170 yards and scored on three 1-yard plunges, while completing a 54-yard scoring strike to Kyle Haas.
Richard said that going from a run dominated offense in Hamilton to facing an offense like West Platte’s that can run or pass with great effectiveness is a challenge. The Bearcat coach adds that Humes’ ability to move the football on a scramble or designed runs is like adding another running back to the backfield.
“A normal quarterback will scramble around and get a few yards here and there, but he definitely adds another huge weapon to their run game – probably their main weapon – and you’ve got to focus on him everywhere on the field,” he said.
Richard said it will be up to his defensive line to provide the pressure in passing situations, in addition to stopping Humes when he tucks the ball and takes off.
The Bearcats have been successful in the past in stopping the Blue Jay attack. Orrick and West Platte opened their seasons against each other in 2006 and 2007 with the Bearcats taking both games.
Orrick held Humes to one passing touchdown in a 41-14 win in Weston in 2006, and last year at Simmons Field the Bearcats began their current winning streak with a 49-20 decision as Humes threw for a pair of touchdowns.
As was the case in those two meetings, Richard said his team would have to take advantage of its speed.
“I think it helps to know what they’re going to do offensively and defensively going in,” he explained. “I think the speed factor of us has always been our main advantage in that we’ve just always been faster than them. We have to take advantage of that again on Saturday.”
Although Erick Roe has graduated and taken his state career receiving record of 4,053 yard and 49 touchdowns with him to Benedictine, there are plenty of options remaining for Humes to throw to.
His favorite target this season has been junior Ben Schlick, who was second on the team in receiving last year.
“He’s a good receiver, and they’ve got a couple of other kids with him,” Richard said. “I think Humes spreads the ball around a little more than he did a year ago. Last year if you stopped Rowe, you pretty well had them under control. This year when he gets in trouble he’s going to Schlick, so he’s really spreading the ball more.”
As for his own offense, Richard was pleased with the way his squad put together big drives when needed Monday night in the second half.
However, he knows that his Bearcats cannot afford to draw 12 penalty flags, four of which were for holding, as they did Monday.
“We’ve got to mentally focus on that,” Richard said. “We’ve got to get off the ball. This week’s focus is speed off the ball up front and getting into them quickly and getting them off the ball and the line. If we can do that, I think we can eliminate a lot of the holding penalties.
We’re getting those calls when we’re standing there in a stalemate. The referee sees that and throws the hold flag. If we can eliminate those mistakes, I think we’ll be OK.”
PHOTO: Orrick guard Leslee Eubank (67) leads the way for Aaron Blyth (23) during Monday’s 18-0 Sectional victory over the Hornets at Hamilton. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News.)