Orion dominates state semifinalist

Mindy Carls
Orion tight end Tyler DeDecker, in front at left, blocks Arcola’s Cameron Anderson in the third quarter on Friday, Sept. 5, at Charger Field.

    Starting six drives in Arcola territory, the Orion Chargers scored on five of them to defeat the Purple Riders 49-21 on Friday, Sept. 5.

    The only time Orion did not score was when the drive began with 20 seconds left in the first half.

    Both teams reached the state semifinals last year, Orion in Class 2A and Arcola in 1A.

    The host Chargers could have put even more points on the board, but they came up empty twice when they pushed the ball inside the Purple Rider 5.

    Orion coach Jason VanHoutte was more pleased with his team than he had been after the 54-31 win over Rock Falls a week earlier.

    “We played more physically on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We were more disciplined. “We didn’t have some of the silly mistakes, and we played more together as a team.”

    The Chargers improved to 2-0 with the non-conference win.

    Orion piled up 380 yards of total offense, while Arcola had 273.

The Chargers rushed for 291 yards and five touchdowns on 39 attempts. Evan Viager rolled up 130 yards and Matt Knoll 93, and both scored twice.

Kennen Hutchison added 66 yards and one touchdown. Matt Markezich chipped in 10 yards.

    Meanwhile, the Purple Riders gained 170 yards on 40 tries.

Orion quarterback Josh Hutton completed six of nine passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

    His targets were Tyler DeDecker, one catch for 41 yards and a TD; Knoll, two snags for 25 yards and a touchdown; and Ian Cooper, three grabs for 23 yards.

    The Purple Riders’ signal caller, Tony VanGundy, connected on six of nine throws for 103 yards and one touchdown.

    He was intercepted twice, once by Steven Bainter and once by Hutchison.

    Each team fumbled the ball away once. Jared Simmer recovered the Arcola bobble.

    The Chargers picked up 21 first downs and the Purple Riders 13.

Orion was penalized twice for 15 yards and Arcola four times for 25 yards.

    The Chargers ripped off 21 points in the first quarter.

    After taking the opening kickoff, Orion marched 74 yards in 11 plays for the first touchdown.

    The Chargers picked up three first downs in the first five plays.

Arcola sacked Hutton six yards behind the line of scrimmage, but on the next play Viager reeled off 22 yards to put the ball at the Arcola 24.

Knoll and Hutchison pushed the ball down to the 20.

    Hutton then passed to Ian Cooper for nine yards. Knoll gained eight yards on first down and three on second down to get into the end zone.

With 6:57 to go in the first quarter, the Chargers led 6-0. Hutton kicked the extra point.

    The Orion defense forced Arcola to punt on its first possession.

A fair catch set up the Chargers on their own 34. Knoll went off to the right for six yards, and Hutchison off to the left for 19 yards.

After an Arcola timeout, Hutton passed to DeDecker for a 41-yard touchdown with 3:44 to go in the first.

    The Purple Riders moved the ball 15 yards before punting from their own 39.

    Hutton returned the punt to the Arcola 23, and on the very first play of the new drive Knoll went off tackle to the right to score.

With the clock showing 1:19 in the first and his team leading 21-0, VanHoutte yelled, “Don’t let up.”

    The Charger defense paid attention, holding the Purple Riders to 14 yards before they had to punt.

    Orion’s next drive began with Knoll gaining 32 yards on the right side.

    Hutton then found Cooper with a pass for an 11-yard gain on the right side. Two plays later, Hutton whipped the ball to Knoll for 10 yards.

The Chargers worked their way down to the 2-yard-line, but on second-and-goal they fumbled the ball and the Purple Riders recovered it in the end zone.

    Arcola capitalized on the turnover, marching 98 yards for a touchdown.

    The defense appeared to have stopped the visitors on fourth-and-8 at the Orion 33, but the VanGundy completed an 18-yard pass to Garrison Stenger to keep the drive alive.

    Arcola also scored on the first possession of the second half, cutting the Orion lead to 21-14 with 6:56 to go in the third.

    The Chargers wasted no time taking back control of the game. When the Purple Riders kicked off, Hutchison returned the ball 59 yards up the right side to the 25-yard line.

    Orion kept the ball on the right side for the next four plays. Knoll gained five yards and Hutchison three and 11 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 6. Hutchison took the ball in from there, diving over the goal line.

    Hutton kicked the extra point for a 28-14 lead midway through the third.

    Arcola had the ball only three plays, gaining two yards, before VanGundy threw an interception to Bainter.

    Taking over at the Purple Rider 26, the Chargers moved the ball down to the 1. But on fourth-and-goal, the runner was thrown for a three-yard loss.

    This time the Orion defense kept the visitors from marching the length of the field. Arcola managed to get only as far as its own 9 before punting.

    A flag for illegal procedure forced the Purple Riders to punt again. After dropping the snap, the punter got off a bad kick.

    The Chargers took over on the Purple Rider 20. They needed only three plays to score, this time on Hutton’s 15-yard pass to Knoll on the left sideline.

    Hutton kicked the extra point for a 35-14 lead.

    Arcola’s next possession ended with Hutchison’s interception, and Orion took advantage of the turnover to put more points on the board.

    The Chargers ran only three plays on the drive, with Viager running for 20 yards and Markezich for five before Viager ripped off a 15-yard dash into end zone.

    With 4:18 to go in the game, Arcola put its final points on the board. VanGundy threw a 69-yard pass to Kenneth East.

    Knoll returned the kickoff 42 yards to the Arcola 39. Four plays and two minutes later, Orion scored for the last time.

    Viager ignited the drive with a 25-yard run on first down. After the Purple Riders caught Viager behind the line of scrimmage on the next play, Markezich busted up the middle for five yards.

    Viager then scored from 10 yards out. Hutton booted the extra point.

As the final seconds ticked down, Arcola fumbled the ball at midfield. Simmer recovered it.