It was only the third game of the high school football season, yet Friday night’s I-70 Conference battle at Simmons Field in Orrick between the Bearcats and the Wellington-Napoleon Tigers had a playoff feel.
After steamrolling through the first two opponents of the season, the Bearcats faced an experienced 2-0 Tiger team to grab the upper hand in the conference race. The Rumble on the River belonged to the Bearcat defense and ground game as Orrick chalked up its 32nd consecutive win with a 24-12 victory. Bearcat Coach Pat Richard was proud of the effort by both teams.
“I thought both teams played exceptionally hard and there was a great amount of sportsmanship shown throughout,” he said. “They have such a great offense and it was a tremendous challenge to try and slow them down. I felt like we played with a great amount of heart and really finished strong.”
Orrick held the Tigers to 99 yards on the ground, while quarterback Caleb Kropp completed half of his 24 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. The Bearcats relied on their consistent ground attack to pick up 382 yards against a solid Wellington defense, while quarterback Clayton Jones attempted just one pass, and it was intercepted.
After a scoreless opening period, Orrick drew first blood as the Bearcats drove 65 yards in 13 plays with Kalija Rogers crashing in from the one with 5:54 left in the half to break up the scoreless deadlock. Rogers ended the night with 163 rushing yards on 17 attempts, with Logan Eubank picking up a game-high 185 yards on 23 carries.
“Logan and Kalija ran extremely hard and made some great runs when it looked like there wasn’t much room to run,” Richard said.
Aaron Blyth ran the first of his three conversions to give Orrick an 8-0 lead at the intermission. After the second-half kickoff, the Tigers came out with a 60-yard march using six plays. Cody Banner, who was held to a season-low 54 yards on a dozen carries, capped the drive with a 3-yard run. The conversion failed, as Orrick’s lead was cut to 8-6 with 9:22 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wellington defense forced a Bearcat punt on the ensuing possession, and the Orrick defense then answered by stopping the Tigers on downs on the Bearcat 21. Orrick would score on the next two possessions as the final quarter began. Blyth, who added 44 yards on 11 carries for the night, scored on a 3-yard run and then added the run for 2.
Once again, the defense would hold the Tigers on downs deep in Orrick territory to set up the final Bearcat scoring drive. This one would take up less time as Rogers broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run with 3:37 left in the game to open up a bit more breathing room.
Wellington would add a 43-yard touchdown pass from Kropp to Blake Seitz 21 seconds later for the final score. Seitz had 8 catches for 116 yards.
Eubank led the Orrick tackle chart with 12, while Cameron McGlothlin was also in on a dozen stops.
PHOTO: Orrick’s Aaron Blythe carries Wellington-Napolean defenders into the end zone for a two-point conversion in the second quarter of Friday’s home opener in Orrick. (Photos by JoEllen Black/The Daily News)