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The night that a lot of people have been looking forward to before the season even started has finally arrived. In a game that could go a long way in deciding the Class 1 state champion, the top-ranked Orrick Bearcats will host Penny of Hamilton at Simmons Field in a Class 1 sectional contest at 7 p.m.
The Bearcats, of course, have won their last 40 games and have been on top of the Class 1 polls all season long. Hamilton, also unbeaten, has been ranked right behind them in the No. 2 spot.
The Hornets have won 20 of their last 21 games, with the lone setback coming one year ago Tuesday when visiting Orrick stopped them 18-0 in the Class 1 sectional. And like last year, the Bearcats will test their defense against a Hamilton offense that features many weapons.
“They have the best athletes in the state – in any class,” Orrick Coach Pat Richard said. “They did last year too, it’s just a question of whether we can do enough things to slow them down, stay close and do the things we do football-wise to make us successful.”
Coach Dave Fairchild’s Hornets have averaged 47 points a game, while the Orrick defense has limited opponents to just over 6 points a contest. Hamilton likes to keep the ball on the ground, but can pass if needed. Quarterback Keagan Prather has hit 25 of his 57 attempts for 538 yards and 8 touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions.
While there is no 1,000-yard rusher for Hamilton, the Hornets do have five quality running threats led by Trevor Dixon who has 792 yards on 82 carries and Dylan Chadwick, who has 681 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Chadwick also has 9 receptions for 273 yards and 5 touchdowns.
In last year’s meeting, the Orrick defense played what Richard called his team’s best effort in holding the Hornets to 123 yards of total offense.
Hamilton has been winning their games by an average of 40 points a game and Richard hopes to use that as an advantage down the stretch.
“If we can be close at the half, we’ll be OK,” he said. “They haven’t really played much in the second half because they’ve been beating people so bad and sometimes that hurts you. Hopefully we can compete with them long enough to get it into the second half.”
Both teams got off to slow starts last week. Orrick spotted visiting Maysville a 12-point lead before rolling to a 44-12 victory. Meanwhile the Hornets needed a late field goal from Chadwick – his first and only of the season – to hold off upset-minded Braymer 17-14.
“Braymer did a heck of a job against them defensively and offensively they got things going a little in the second half,” Richard said. “Hamilton just shut them down in the first half. Hopefully we can learn a little bit from that.”
Hamilton also committed four turnovers in the game. Richard adds that avoiding mistakes in a huge game like this is crucial.
“It’s kind of a turnover battle,” he said. “If we can force a couple or three turnovers and take care of the ball ourselves, I think we’ll be fine. Mistakes and penalties in a game like this are the key and hopefully we can win them both.”
In last year’s meeting, the Bearcats rolled up 268 yards of offense, but had three turnovers deep in Hamilton territory as both teams battled to a 0-0 halftime draw.