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Spending the first two weeks of the football season on the road has had very few effects on the Orrick Bearcats. Coach Pat Richard’s crew has responded with very convincing wins over Crest Ridge and Sweet Springs by a combined score of 88-3 as they seek their third straight Class 1 crown.
Although happy to be back home at Simmons Field, the Bearcats face a tough task as they collide with the Wellington-Napoleon Tigers for another edition of The Rumble on the River at 7 tonight. The Tigers bring a 2-0 mark to Orrick to face the top-ranked Bearcats. Richard said facing your rival is a great way to begin the home schedule.
“It’s a team right next to us and our community knows a lot of people in their community and it’s been a pretty good rivalry for us through the years,” he said. “It’s a game the kids have pointed to since last winter. We knew they’d be good so we put a lot of focus into them so it’s going to be a great test for us.”
The Tigers return a good portion of the squad from last season that put together a 9-4 campaign including a 24-8 loss to Orrick in a game delayed a day by stormy weather. Among the returning offensive stars for Wellington are quarterback Caleb Kropp, a second-team all-conference player, first-team all-league running back Cody Banner, and first-team lineman Spencer Ward. Richard said the Bearcats will have to be aware of where Ward is at all times when he is on defense.
“They’ve got so many skill kids and they’re good up front,” Richard said. “Having Banner, Kropp and Blake Seitz all back for them makes them tough. They were great playmakers for them last year on a team that got to the quarterfinals.”
Seitz provided Wellington a big boost last week in a 28-14 win over Lathrop as he returned the opening kickoff 80 yards, virtually untouched, for a touchdown. The Tiger special teams also contributed with a fake punt to gain big yardage.
“We’ve really made special teams a focus this week and hopefully we can slow them down a little when they try that stuff,” Richard said. “I thought that was huge for them last week getting that opening kick returned.”
Kropp helped pace the Tiger offense with a rushing touchdown and a pair of passing touchdowns.
The Wellington defense did surrender some yardage on the ground as Lathrop’s outstanding running back Caleb Hartzell piled up 185 yards Friday night. Richard added the Tiger defensive front usually prevents the runner from getting into the secondary.
“We haven’t seen how they tackle because most people aren’t getting past their linemen,” he said. “We want to try and get to that second level to see if we can block them with our linemen and have our backs miss them. It was exciting to see someone have a little success running the ball on them. It gives us a little hope we can run the ball on them.”
The Bearcats have averaged over 400 yards on the ground through the first two weeks as they get set to meet the last team to defeat them in the regular season. The Tigers held off Orrick 14-13 on Oct. 21, 2005.
“I don’t know if that matters,” Richard said. “It’s Wellington and Orrick and that makes it a great rivalry for the kids. More importantly, we play a very quality football team to test us. It will allow us to see if we are as good as we could be, and see if there is anything else we need to work on.”