Knoll TDs help Orion roll

Mindy Carls
Kennen Hutchison (32), right, follows blocker Evan Viager (40), left, on a 13-yard run up the left side to the 50 on the last play of the first quarter on Friday.

Matt Knoll rushed for more than 200 yards, scored five touchdowns and picked off a pass to lead Orion to a 50-28 victory over Knoxville on Friday, Oct. 17.

For his efforts, Knoll was named the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus’ Pacesetter of the Week.

With the win on their home field, the Chargers powered their record to 7-1 overall, 4-1 in the Olympic Conference.

A victory over Rockridge on Friday, Oct. 24, at Charger Field would give Orion a share of the conference championship.

Playing Knoxville for the last time in Olympic football, the Chargers rolled up 407 yards of total offense. They gained 359 yards on the ground and 47 in the air.

Orion coach Jason VanHoutte knew whom to praise for the outstanding effort on offense.

“A lot of the credit goes to the guys up front,” he said. “We challenged our offensive line all week.”

The Charger line blew open holes that allowed the backs to average nine yards per rush.

Orion’s starting linemen allowed no tackles for losses, and they did not allow Knoxville defenders to touch quarterback Josh Hutton.

Running behind a line like that, Knoll ground out 173 yards on 15 attempts in the first half. He finished with 205 yards and four touchdowns on 16 rushes. 

Knoll also returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown.

He got into the end zone on three consecutive touches—a 4-yard run at 5:48 in the first quarter, a 50-yard scamper at 11:48 in the second period and the punt return at 9:24 in the second.

Kennen Hutchison picked up 111 yards on 10 carries. He hit paydirt twice.

Hutton completed four of six passes for 47 yards. Hutchison snagged two balls for 21 yards; Ian Cooper, one for 15 yards; and Brad Walker, one for 11.

The Blue Bullets, who are leaving the conference at the end of the school year, picked up 352 yards. They had 234 yards on 45 rushes and 118 yards on four catches, including a 71-yard TD reception.

Knoxville quarterback Bryce Ball connected on four of nine passes for 118 yards and one touchdown. He threw one interception.

“Our defense played pretty well but gave up big plays,” VanHoutte said. “We want to make teams put 10 or 12 plays together.”

In high school football, a team that has to string together that many plays probably will make a costly mistake, Charger coaches believe.

“Special teams played well,” VanHoutte said. 

Melting down Blue Bullets

The Chargers controlled the game from the beginning, scoring 15 points in the first quarter and adding 21 in the second.

Meanwhile, the Bullets managed a touchdown in the first and another in the second.

Receiving the opening kickoff, Knoll returned the ball to the Orion 48.

Knoll and Hutchison took turns carrying the ball on the opening drive, which ended with Knoll going up the right side 18 yards for a touchdown. 

Hutton kicked the extra point.

The Orion defense forced Knoxville to go three-and-out on its opening possession. The key play was Hutton’s trip of Michael Dayak a yard behind the line of scrimmage.

Orion then launched a 66-yard scoring drive, which featured Hutton passing to Hutchison for nine yards and to Walker for 11 yards. 

Knoll finished off the drive with a 4-yard plunge into the end zone. 

On the extra-point attempt, holder Travis Hauman picked up a bad snap and pitched to Hutton, who ran into the end zone.

That gave Orion a 15-0 lead with 5:48 to go in the first.

Knoxville responded with a 73-yard drive for its first touchdown, which came with eight seconds on the clock in the first period.

The Chargers start their next possession at their own 37, but they needed only two plays to score.

On first down, Hutchison ripped off 13 yards on the left side to midfield.

Hutton then handed off to Knoll, who broke off a 50-yard run into the end zone.

The kick made it 22-8, Orion, with 11:48 to go in the first half.

Knoxville once again went three-and-out. On third and four, Walker and Cooper dropped Dayak behind the line for a 2-yard loss.

When the Blue Bullets punted, Knoll ran the ball back 71 yards for a touchdown.

After the kickoff, Knoxville had the ball at its own 29. Ball launched a pass to Chris Childers, who raced 71 yards to paydirt.

Ball’s pass on the two-point play fell incomplete, leaving the Chargers with a 29-14 lead with 9:08 on the clock.

The Chargers launched a 63-yard drive that ate up more than six minutess before ending with Knoll’s 8-yard touchdown run.

Hutton kicked the extra point to put Orion up 36-14.

Knoxville had almost three minutes to work with, and the visitors used almost all of it driving to the Orion 37.

The Orion defense sacked Ball twice on the drive. John Taylor, Tyler DeDecker and Walker nailed him eight yards behind the line, and Viager put him on the ground 10 yards back of the line.

After Viager’s sack, the Blue Bullets faced second-and-20 at the Charger 37. Ball passed, only to see Knoll come down with the rock.

The Chargers knelt on the ball to end the half.

Knoxville started the third period with the ball. The visitors once again went three-and-out. On third down, Ted Leuck knocked down Ball’s pass to force a punt.

After Knoll’s return, the Chargers started a six-play scoring drive that covered 52 yards. 

They picked up more than half the yards on the opening play, a draw up the middle. Knoll picked up 32 yards.

Hutton then passed to Hutchison for 32 yards.

Two plays later, Hutchison surged three yards for a touchdown. The kick gave Orion a 43-14 lead.

Knoxville scored on a 5-yard run with 5:47 to go in the third.

To start their next drive, the Chargers gave the ball to Hutchison. He reeled off 71 yards to the end zone, only to have the run nullified by a block in the back.

That caused only a slight delay for the hosts, who needed only five plays to score for real.

The drive included Hutton’s pass to Cooper for 15 yards to the Orion 44. One play later, Walker gained 10 yards to the Knoxville 38, and on the next snap Hutchison found room on the left side to go all the way to paydirt with 3:41 to go in the third.

Hutton kicked the extra point, which proved to be the final one for Orion.

Knoxville marched from its own 40 to the Orion 32 in eight plays. Facing fourth-and-9, the Blue Bullets were hit with a false-start penalty and had to punt.

The Chargers began their next drive at their own 3, but they moved the ball to the Charger 45 before having to punt.

On their final possession of the game, the Blue Bullets scored on Ricky Dredge’s 5-yard run.

They also converted on the two-point run.