Orrick Coach Pat Richard knows that a 29-game winning streak and back-to-back Class 1 State football titles will really put a bull’s eye on you.
“Everybody keeps talking about the winning streak – that’s fine – it’s something we don’t talk about,” Richard said. “We’re a one game at a time team anyway, but knowing each team is going to give you their best shot is great motivation for the kids and the coaches.”
The first obstacle standing before the Bearcats is a road test against I-70 Conference foe Sweet Springs.
Orrick opened last season with a 34-6 victory at home over the Greyhounds despite six holding calls and a few more opening game miscues. Richard knows his team will not be able to make those kinds of mistakes this week. The main concern for Orrick will be the Greyhound’s outstanding linebacker Zach Thomas, a first-team all-conference linebacker from last year. Richard calls Thomas one of the best linebackers in the area.
“It looks like he’s gotten better and that’s going to be a real challenge for us,” he said. “We need to know where he’s going to be on every play. I think he’s the key to their defense and we’ve got to find ways to block him and keep him contained.”
Although the roster is a bit smaller for the Bearcats heading into the new season, Richard returns a lot of experience among his 23 players.
All of the starting backfield returns with the exception at quarterback. Back to run the ball are running backs Aaron Blyth, a 1,550 yard rusher from last season, and Logan Eubank, who gained 1,045 yards in 2008.
Fullback Kalija Rogers returns after a 1,282-yard season. Richard was pleased with the play of the offense during last week’s jamboree, but adds the strength in the offense begins up front where most of the starters return.
“With all three running backs back and most of the linemen back, it’s exciting to be able to do the same stuff we’ve done without having to re-teach,” Richard said. “They’ve been the key to our success the last three years and without linemen, we’re very average.”
Defensively, there will be two new defensive ends for Orrick, while sophomore Larry Blair moves in at linebacker between Rogers and Eubank, while Turner Twyman will be a newcomer at corner.
“That’s the key, if they continue to get better, then we’re going to be fine on defense,” Richard said. “When you come off a year where you have nine shutouts, it’s hard to come right back to that. It all starts with game one and hopefully we can continue that tradition of great defense.”
Richard said the Sweet Springs is running more option this year than in previous seasons.
“Last year they did a lot of base power stuff out of the wishbone and this year at the jamboree it looked like they were running a little bit more split veer and a little more option,” he said. “That presents a little more problem for us on defense.”
Richard said his defense will have to play their assignments in order to take away what the Greyhounds are trying to do on offense.