Not only are the Orrick Bearcats facing one of their biggest I-70 Conference rivals Friday night, but it is also Homecoming as the Concordia Orioles visit Simmons Field. It is just another challenge the two-time defending Class 1 champions have faced – and have met over the course of their 34-game winning streak.
“It’s like getting pulled two different ways,” Orrick Coach Pat Richard said. “You’ve got the rivalry and the kids always look forward to it and this is one of our big games. They’re up for it and focused on it – I hope – that’s going to be the key. They need to be focused completely on what we’re doing. If we can do that, then we’ll be successful.”
The Orioles’ lone loss came on Sept. 11 when they dropped a 22-18 contest at Knob Noster. Last week, Concordia tuned up for their conference showdown by blowing out the Slater Wildcats 45-0 for the Orioles’ second straight shutout. Richard said the strength of Concordia begins along the line.
“They’re big up front and that alone is always tough to compete with,” he said. “They are huge, big kids. In the past, we’ve been able to get off the ball with them and control the line of scrimmage despite their size advantage. This year they look a little quicker off the ball.”
Offensively, quarterback Kent Schuette guides the Orioles.
“He’s tough,” Richard said. “He’s a very good option quarterback. They’re running an inside and outside veer and he does a great job of reading the option and running it. He’s a weapon. He throws the ball well – their short passing game is pretty good and they’ve got some threats at running back.”
Among those threats are Collin Werths and Zach Wolski and a pair of wingbacks that make the Orioles a bit more balanced this season.
Schuette, a junior second-team, all-conference linebacker, along with senior first-team, all-conference lineman J.R. Langkrahr are key to the Concordia defense. Richard looks for the Orioles to run their usual four-man front but, like everybody else the Bearcats have faced, bring the linebackers closer to the line to stuff the box.
The Orrick linemen have had plenty of experience blocking a loaded front. The ground game, led by Logan Eubank, Kalija Rogers and Aaron Blyth, has rushed for an average of 8.25 yards per carry and 364 per game.
“Everybody is pretty well saying we’re going to run the ball all the time – and we do,” Richard said of his offensive game plan. “It’s worked for us so far. When we’ve had to throw, Clayton (Jones) has done a great job. We’ve got enough passing in, we just haven’t had to use it and we’re not going to until we have to.”
Jones has thrown just 8 passes all season and completed 5 of them for 143 yards and 4 touchdowns – all of them to Turner Twyman.