Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Perfect Bearcats back on top

Perfect Bearcats back on top
Russ Green, Sports reporter

When Pat Richard arrived in Orrick eight years ago, he took over a program that had lost 25 in a row, and 29 of 30 games

On Saturday, the Bearcats climbed back to the top of Class 1 football with a 20-8 victory over Thayer in the Show Me Bowl in St. Louis for their first state championship since 1975. For Richard, Saturday’s victory was the culmination of a project that began with his first-ever team meeting at Orrick.

“I think it’s satisfying to be able to go back and look those kids in the eye that I was coaching eight years ago and say this is what we were talking about and we’re here,” Richard said. “My first year we sat down and we said we’re going to, at some point, build this program to the point where we can build a state championship and we did that. We did that because of these young men and their beliefs.”

In Saturday’s battle of the unbeatens, Orrick played very un-Bearcatlike football in the first half. Although they maintained possession, the Bearcats fumbled twice in the first half, but lost the ball on an interception, while also drawing three penalties for a loss of 35 yards. All those miscues helped limited Orrick to 68 yards of total offense on 19 plays, while Thayer managed 161 yards of offense on 36 plays.

Despite their struggles, Orrick and Thayer were knotted at 8-8 at the half. Orrick had managed to overcome a slow start just one week earlier in its semifinal win over Princeton, and the Bearcats were not about to panic this time around either.

“It seemed like we made every mistake we could make in the first half,” Richard said. “Mentally, that was probably the worst half of football we’ve played all year, but it was the state championship game with kids that have never been here. We’ve been in some big ball games, but obviously never in a dome and never in this type of environment. Typical of our kids, they battled.”

Bearcat running back Taylor Eubank, who ended the game with 211 rushing yards on 24 carries, and all three touchdowns said his teammates never got down during their first-half struggles.
“Like coach says, we’re not only a team, but also we’re family,” he said. “Anytime anybody got down, there would be somebody else picking them up and keeping them going. Everybody just keeps encouraging everybody and striving to do better.”

Eubank’s 30-yard run with just one second left on the clock in the first quarter had given Orrick a 6-0 lead, and his two-point conversion run boosted the Orrick lead to 8-0.

A Bobcat interception set up Thayer’s touchdown midway through the second period. Michael Lowther grabbed the deflected Joe Kaufman pass and returned it 16 yards to the Bearcat 4-yard line. Quarterback Jacob Eckman carried twice, including the final one yard for the score, and then added the conversion run to tie the game with 2:21 left in the half.

Having eliminated, the miscues, the Bearcat offense began to click as they ran from the single wing throughout the second half. After going one for five in third-down conversions in the first half, Orrick was two for three in the second half as the Bearcats produced 225 of their 272 rushing yards.

“When we needed yards in the fourth quarter, we ran right behind Jerry O’Dell,” Richard said.
The Bearcat’s senior guard said it’s a treat blocking for the backfield of Kaufman, Eubank, Kalija Rogers and Aaron Blyth.

“It doesn’t matter who I’m blocking for, as long as they’re running hard and we’re playing hard, we’re going to win and we know that,” O’Dell said. “I know that he’s got my back and I’ve got his.”

Meanwhile the Orrick defense began to clamp down on the Bobcat offense. Thayer ended the game with 113 rushing yards, with Eckman completing half of his 18 passes for 107 yards.
Eubank’s second touchdown came with 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 34-yard burst to cap a six-play, 56-yard drive. His 41-yard breakaway with 2:21 left in the game came on the ninth play of a drive that ate up 4:45, and cued the celebrations.

Thayer’s final possession resulted in a loss of 12 yards on four plays. Orrick then ran out the remaining 1:27 of the game.

Nick Lafferty led the Bearcat tackle chart with 9 stops – 3 of those resulting in a loss of 10 yards. Blyth, Matt O’Dell, Taylor Eubank and Leslee Eubank had 8 each. O’Dell and Leslee Eubank had two tackles each behind the line. O’Dell’s two were quarterback sacks for a loss of 16 yards, while Lafferty and Leslee Eubank had one sack each. Aaron James had an interception for the Bearcats.

PHOTO: Taylor Eubank scores the first of his three touchdowns in Orrick’s 20-8 win over Thayer Saturday. (Photo by Russ Green)

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