Chargers ground Rockets

Mindy Carls
Ian Cooper (12), left, and Eric Blackert (79) push back Rock Falls Rockets on the left side of the play near the goal line in the second quarter on Friday night.

    Orion’s super-charged offense needed less than a minute to put points on the board when Rock Falls came to Charger Field on Friday, Aug. 29.

    After Matt Knoll scored on a 52-yard scamper up the right side with 11:01 to go in the first quarter, the Chargers scored touchdowns on their first eight possessions and won the season opener 54-31.

    It was a long night, with the varsity teams taking the field after 8 p.m. and finishing the game at 11 p.m.

    The number of penalties was one reason for the length of the game. Rock Falls drew 18 yellow beanbags for 170 yards, and Orion nine for 85.

    “We did a really good job running the football,” coach Jason Van Houtte said. “We had some key injuries, but younger guys stepped up and ran the ball well. Rock Falls took our tight ends out of the game.”

    Orion went into the game ranked first in the Associated Press Class 2A poll.

    “It’s new to us to be hyped, and we’re learning how to handle it,” Van Houtte said. “Our goal was to win tonight.”

    The Chargers rolled for 324 yards on 47 rushes, while their guests gained only 122 yards on 34 tries.

    Orion quarterback Josh Hutton completed five of 10 passes for 70 yards. His Rock Falls counterpart connected on eight of 16 throws for 124 yards.

    On the first play of the game, Knoll gained a yard. Then Hutton passed to Jordan Adkins for 16 yards, and a flag for roughing the passer gave the Chargers an additional 15 yards.

    Knoll scored on the next play, only the third of the game.

    Orion rolled to a 20-0 lead before the first quarter ended.

    Following Knoll’s touchdown, the Charger defense forced the Rockets to punt.

    Rock Falls had picked up a first down on a 23-yard run, but on the next play Cody Williams dropped Odin Spinka for a six-yard loss.

    Knoll returned the punt 89 yards to the Rock Falls 1, only to have a personal foul bring the ball back 15 yards to the 16.

    The penalty made little difference to the Chargers. Adkins ran for nine yards to set up Kennen Hutchison’s seven-yard TD run.

    Led by Evan Viager, Adkins and Walker, Orion’s defense made Rock Falls punt again.

    Taking over at their own 8, the Chargers needed nine plays to get into the end zone again.

    Viager raced 40 yards on the first play. Rocket Brandon Stangeland sacked Hutton for a 13-yard loss on first down.

    Knoll regained every  of the loss on the next play.

    With the ball at midfield, Hutton threw an incomplete pass. But a penalty for roughing the passer, followed by another one for encroachment, gave the Chargers first down at the Rocket 31.

    Hutchison gained 14 yards and Knoll 12. Adkins scored from five yards out.

    So far the Chargers had not scored after a touchdown, but after this drive Hutton passed to Tyler DeDecker for two points.

    Early in the second quarter, the Rockets had to punt for the third time. After Hutchison returned the ball to the Orion 43, the Chargers started their fourth scoring drive.

    Hutton completed a pass to DeDecker for eight yards and another toss to Hutchison for 12 yards.

    During the drive, Adkins gained 20 yards on four rushes and Viager six yards on one.

    But it was Hutchison who found the end zone from four yards out to make the score 26-0.

    On the kickoff, Stangeland gave Rock Falls its first points with an 85-yard return for a touchdown.

    The next Orion drive started with a 24-yard pass from Hutton to Adkins, which put the ball at the Rock Falls 38.

    Mixing in passes with runs, the Chargers moved the ball down to the 4-yard line. Viager picked up a yard. Brad Walker smashed into the Rocket line for two yards, and Viager plunged into the end zone.

    The Chargers again could not convert on the two-point attempt, but they still had a comfortable 32-7 lead with 2:18 left in the half.

    As the clock wound down, the Rockets went 13 yards on a reverse. A penalty for a face mask gave them another 15 yards to the Orion 29 with no time on the clock.

    Since the half could not end on a defensive penalty, the Rockets had one more snap. Zohar Burciaga booted home a 46-yard field goal.

    Rock Falls scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, but Orion responded with a 65-yard scoring march that took only about a minute and a half.

    Hutchison started the drive with a 21-yard dash up the right side. Viager gained six yards to the Rocket 38, and Hutchison ripped off 16 yards on two runs.

    On 1st-and-10 at the Rock Falls 22, Hutton put the ball into Walker’s hands, and he gained 18 yards on the right side.

    From the 4, Hutchison went up the right side for a touchdown.

    Trailing 38-17, Rock Falls went backwards on its next drive. Dylan Austin returned Hutton’s kickoff to the Rock Falls 46. A short run moved the ball to midfield, but a false start and a tackle behind the line moved the ball back into Rocket territory.

    A penalty for delay of game and two flags for unsportsmanlike conduct put the Rockets in a 3rd-and-44 hole with the ball on their own 12. They had to punt.

    Starting its next drive at the Rock Falls 43, the Orion offense picked up three first downs before Walker scored from one yard out.

    Hutton’s kick was no good, but Rock Falls was flagged for roughing the kicker. Hutchison then ran to the end zone for two points.

    Leading 46-17 with 1:18 to go in the third quarter, the Chargers immediately regained the ball when the kickoff team forced a fumble that Walker recovered.

    The big play of the drive was Viager’s 25-yard to the Rocket 18. Three plays later, Walker finished what he started with a 1-yard touchdown plunge over the middle.

    A flag for unsportsmanlike conduct gave the Chargers the ball inside the 2 for the conversion attempt. Viager ran left for the two points, putting Orion up 37 points at 54-17.

    The Rockets needed only four plays for their next score. A 50-yard pass was the big play, setting up 1st-and-goal at the Charger 10.

    After giving up eight touchdowns in a row, the Rock Falls defense finally forced Orion to punt in the fourth quarter.

    The guests scored their final touchdown against mostly reserves, who made the Rockets take 12 snaps to move the ball 63 yards. DeDecker and Williams had a sack for 13 yards early in the drive, and Matt Markezich got to the quarterback for an 8-yard loss midway through the march.

    With the time closing in on 11 p.m., the Chargers had the ball at their own 7. Quarterback James Matson took the snap and knelt, only to have to do it over when the Chargers were flagged for a false start.

    Next up for Orion is a home game with Arcola on Friday, Sept. 12. Because only the varsity is playing, kickoff is at 7 p.m.

    The Purple Riders play in the Little Okaw Valley Conference. They were 10-3 last year, losing in the Class 1A semifinals.

    Arcola lost its first game of 2008, suffering a 35-0 loss to a Sidell Jamaica-Salt Fork team that finished 2007 with an 8-3 record.