The Orrick Bearcats have tucked away another I-70 Conference championship and begin their attempt at a state Class 1 three-peat Friday as they travel to Lexington to meet Wentworth.
Wentworth will bring a 1-6 mark to the District 13 opener, but Orrick Coach Pat Richard knows the Dragons won’t be a pushover.
“I think they’re better,” Richard said. “They’re a more traditional type of football team than they have been the last couple of years. We watched them against Santa Fe and they looked solid. They had them beat, but just had a couple of bad breaks. They’ve gotten better.”
Wentworth’s lone victory came in the second week with a 42-0 shellacking of Sacred Heart. They followed that with a 2-point loss to Santa Fe, and on Saturday dropped a 33-15 contest to visiting Lone Jack. Meanwhile, the Bearcats were getting back on track with its defense. After surrendering a chunk of yardage on the ground the previous week in a narrow victory over Concordia, the Bearcats held St. Paul to zero. Richard said a lot of the credit for the improved defensive play goes to junior Dakota Hasler who made his first start at nose guard.
“We moved Haslar to nose and he did a good job there,” Richard said. “He made a lot of plays and created some activity at the nose that we haven’t had for a while, so that presented some problems for them and hopefully we use him again this week.”
Richard said his defensive ends are also improving their play as well.
“The better we get up front, the better we’re going to be when we get to the playoffs,” he added. “If we don’t improve there, it may be a short run for us.”
The Bearcats have also been drawing more attention as their winning streak continues to grow. The Orrick string has now reached 36 games – the longest active streak in Missouri. For a change of pace, Richard had his team meet Matt Gutierrez of the Kansas City Chiefs Tuesday. The third-string quarterback knows a few things about long winning streaks. He did not lose a game in his high school career at De La Salle in Concord, Calif., and talked to Richard’s troops about dealing with an extended victory string.
Richard said having Gutierrez speak to his team turned out better than he had imagined.
“He was so honest with them,” Richard said. “It was like speaking with someone who has actually gone through the same pressures our kids have. Some of the things he said just hit home. To be honest, I can’t explain how awesome that was. He exceeded expectations as a speaker because he just flat out told them his experiences and the way he felt and I think our kids could really relate to what he said.”
Richard adds that it is important for his team to focus on itself and continue to find ways to improve. He also said that the streak will take care of itself.
“It’s going to be there regardless,” Richard said. “You can’t worry about what’s gone on before. You have to focus on getting better each day, so that when Friday rolls around, you can play and continue to improve.”