Chargers smash Titans, qualify for playoffs

Mindy Carls
Matt Knoll (42), far left, takes the handoff from Josh Hutton (5) as blockers Evan Viager (40), Jordan Adkins (34) and Brandon Larson (83) try to open a hole.

Powered by Matt Knoll’s four touchdowns, Orion clinched its sixth playoff appearance in seven years with a 35-8 victory over Monmouth-Roseville on Friday, Oct. 10, at Monmouth.

The Chargers were the first Olympic Conference team to secure a playoff berth.

With the win, Orion improved to 6-1 overall, 3-1 in the conference.

Monmouth-Roseville’s offense probed deep into Orion territory four times but scored only once.

“Our philosophy is don’t give up the big plays,” Charger coach Jason VanHoutte said. “In high school football, offenses have trouble putting 10-play drives together. They usually make a mistake.”

For the second week in a row, the Orion defense came up with huge stops late in the first half and at the beginning of the second half.

Leading 8-7 in the second period, Monmouth-Roseville penetrated to the Orion 9. The Red Storm defense got to the ballcarrier three times behind the line of scrimmage and pushed the ball back to the Orion 30. At the end of a 12-play drive, Monmouth-Roseville had to turn the ball over on downs.

The Titans left just enough time on the clock for the Chargers to score the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left in the second quarter.

Monmouth-Roseville took the opening kickoff of the second half and strung together 19 plays to march all the way to the Orion 20. The defense dug in on fourth-and-seven, yielding only six yards.

Taking over at their own 14, the Chargers produced an 86-yard scoring drive to go up 21-8.

Orion also got a fumble at a crucial time in the third period, VanHoutte said. The Chargers were able to capitalize on the miscue with their fourth touchdown.

That was the only turnover of the game, although Charger Matt Knoll nearly intercepted a pass in the second quarter, the coach said. 

Rolling up the yards

The Chargers produced 376 yards of total offense, 253 on the ground and 123 in the air, while the Titans finished with 226 rushing yards and 46 receiving yards for a total of 272 yards.

Orion’s leading rushers were Matt Knoll, 18 rushes for 156 yards and four touchdowns; Jordan Adkins, six for 66 yards; Kennen Hutchison, four for 25; and Brad Walker, three for 12.

Josh Hutton completed four of eight passes for 123 yards and one touchdown.

The touchdown strike was a 62-yard missile to Hutchison.

Hutton also found Cooper twice for 51 yards and Knoll once for 10 yards.

Titan quarterback Cody Schreck attempted six passes, connecting on three of them for 46 yards.

Orion piled up 20 first downs and Monmouth-Roseville, 18.

The Chargers had no turnovers and only one penalty, which cost them 10 yards.

Meanwhile, the Titans had one turnover and seven penalties for 47 yards.

If at first … 

In the first quarter, the Monmouth-Roseville defense shut out an Orion offense that is accustomed to producing 21 points before the period ends.

After the first Charger possession ground to a halt at the Titan 44, Hutton’s punt left the hosts with the ball at their own 10.

The Titans gained a first down at their 25, but a holding penalty and two incomplete passes left them facing fourth-and-19 at their own 16.

A punt gave Orion the ball near midfield. After he was sacked for a nine-yard loss, Hutton passed to Cooper for 32 yards to the Monmouth-Roseville 28.

One play later, Hutchison ripped off 11 yards on the left side to the 13-yard line. 

Knoll gained three yards to the 10, but two incomplete passes left the Chargers facing fourth-and-8. They lined up for a field goal, but Nick Leary blocked Hutton’s kick with 3:30 to go in the first period.

Orion’s defense forced Monmouth-Roseville to go three-and-out on its next possession.

The Chargers began their next drive at their own 37. Seven plays later, they were in the end zone for a 7-0 lead only 51 seconds into the second quarter.

Knoll opened the drive with an eight-yard spurt up the middle. Hutchison ran for 14 yards to the Monmouth-Roseville 37. After Knoll picked up seven yards on two carries, Adkins ripped off 28 yards.

That set up Knoll’s first touchdown from the 2-yard line. Hutton kicked the extra point.

The Titans responded with a 64-play scoring drive. Schreck plunged over the goal line from a yard out, and he rushed for two more points to give his team an 8-7 lead with 7:40 to go in the first half.

Attempting a squib kick, Monmouth-Roseville recovered the ball at its own 49.

Seven plays carried the Titans to the Charger 9. On first down, the Red Storm stopped Schreck for no gain.

On second down, Brandon Larson dropped Schreck seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.

On third down, Cooper put Schreck on the ground for a nine-yard loss.

On fourth-and-goal from the Orion 25, Schreck completed a pass, but Larson brought down the receiver five yards behind the line.

The Chargers took over at their own 30. Knoll gained 25 yards on a draw, and one play later a flag for pass interference gave the visitors a first down at Titan 24.

Adkins busted up the middle for six yards. After Hutton whipped a screen pass to Knoll for 10 yards, the Chargers had first-and-goal at the Titan with 25 seconds to go in the half.

A Hutton pass fell incomplete at the goal line, but Monmouth-Roseville was flagged for pass interference and for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

That gave Orion a first down at the 2, and Knoll went to the right for a touchdown. Hutton passed to Tyler DeDecker on the two-point conversion.

On the opening drive of the second half, Monmouth-Roseville ground out six first downs on 19 snaps.

The Titans faced fourth-and-7 at the Charger 20. Bryan Wilson went up the middle for six yards, and a measurement showed the Titans were only inches short of a first down.

Taking over at their own 14, the Chargers put the ball in the hands of Adkins. He broke through the middle of the line for 24 yards.

On the next play, Knoll gained 11 yards for a first down at midfield. One play later, a holding penalty put the Chargers in a 2nd-and-21 hole at their own 38.

Hutton fired a pass to Hutchison, who raced up the field for a 62-yard touchdown.

A bad snap cost Orion a chance to kick the extra point, but they still had a 21-8 lead with 3:46 to go in the third.

On their next drive, the Titans ran off one play before fumbling on second down. The Chargers recovered at the Titan 40.

Hutton passed to Cooper for 19 yards, and Knoll ran on the right side for eight yards to the 10.

After Hutton picked up five yards on a quarterback sneak, the Chargers had the ball at the 5. Hutchison picked up a yard, and the Titans gave up two more yards for facemasking.

On the next play, Knoll drove up the middle for a touchdown. Hutton kicked the extra point, giving Orion a 28-8 lead with 11:53 left in the game.

The Chargers needed only three plays to score on their next possession. 

Taking over on downs at the Titan 43, they lost a yard on a rushing attempt. After a pass fell incomplete on second down. Hutton handed off to Knoll on a draw. He went all the way to paydirt.

Hutton’s extra point put Orion up 35-8.