When Jay Doyle and company were planning their non-conference game during the off-season, they had three options to choose from. Between those options, they looked at who could give them playoff points, and who they could also potentially compete with to earn a win. With that, they settled on the Cumberland Pirates of Toledo, as it provided different potential opportunities; first was playing a game on Saturday, which at the time was before the light issue that they encountered causing all their home games to be played on Saturday's; second it gave them the opportunity to have a playoff atmosphere, as they would travel 4.5 hours for the trip, staying overnight, and practicing at Boyd Field in Maroa on Friday to give them a different experience; finally it provided them a quality opponent who could show the Broncos where they stand against a conference across the state, as Cumberland was the reigning Little Okaw Southeast champion, and the favorite to win that conference once again this year as they came into Saturday's contest with a 5-1 mark.
Orangeville entered Saturday with the chance to earn win number 5, and become playoff eligible, as they still have a tough schedule remaining in front of them. To say this game was critical was an overstatement, but a win would be needed to improve playoff seeding, and an opportunity to keep hopes alive of hosting a playoff game.
When Orangeville took the field they saw something they never faced, an offensive line that averaged 220 pounds across the front, and a quarterback who stood 6'5" with a big arm as well. While the size advantage favored Cumberland, Orangeville would possess a rushing attack that Cumberland had not seen all year. This was set to be a battle from the onset.
On the opening drive, Cumberland would mix pass with run, as QB Gabe Hatfill would hit Connor Butler and Myles Gerhardt on completions, and Wyatt Brant would get some critical runs to gain yardage to drive deep into Bronco territory. Then from 25 yards out, Hatfill would connect with Gerhardt for a TD pass, and after Butler made the PAT kick, the Pirates had the lead 7-0 with 8:21 to go in the 1st quarter.
Orangeville would then get their first possession, and began chipping away on the ground behind Garret Rodebaugh, mixed in with a big run by Chase Jordan as they moved into Pirates territory. Inside the red zone, Rodebaugh busted a 12 yard run up the middle to pay dirt, then added the only successful two point conversion the Broncos would have all game to give them the lead 8-7 with 5:21 left in the first.
The Broncos would then force Cumberland to punt on their second possession, and went to work on the ground again. This time, it was Carter Kleckler getting loose for a big run, gaining 23 yards, but a fumble at the end of the play was recovered by the Pirates halting the Bronco drive to potentially extend their lead. The end of the first quarter came with the Broncos still up 8-7, but Cumberland with the ball.
The Pirates continued to go to the air, but with a big run by Brant, the Pirates were in the red zone. That is when Hatfill would connect with Butler on a 14 yard TD pass, and after Butler's PAT kick was good, the Pirates were back in front 14-8 with 9:14 to go until half.
It would not take long for the Broncos to respond, as you could then tell this would be a high scoring back and forth afair. The ensuing Bronco drive took only 3 minutes, and once again it was Rodebaugh providing the rushing attack, along with a big 1st down run by Brandon Raetz. Then from 3 yards out, Rodebaugh punched it in for his 2nd TD of the day. The PAT kick was no good, but the Broncos had tied the game at 14 all with 6:06 remaining until half.
As the story line was set, Cumberland came right back down the field again, once again behind the arm of Hatfill and the legs of Brant, the Pirates found themselves in Bronco territory. Sitting at the Bronco 39 yard line, Gerhardt found his way behind the Bronco defense, and Hatfill connected as he took the pass for the TD. Once again the Butler PAT kick was good, and Cumberland retook the lead for a 21-14 advantage they would take into halftime.
The Broncos would open the 2nd half receiving the ball, but Cumberland surprised the Broncos with an onside kick that they would recover. They would quickly begin to drive the ball, but a pass attempt to Gerhardt was picked off by Breyton Schofield at the Bronco 19 yard line. Then on the ensuing drive, it didn't take long as Chase Jordan broke loose for an 81 yard TD run with 9:09 left in the 3rd quarter, but the two point conversion failed, as the Broncos closed the gap with Cumberland now in the lead 21-20.
Cumberland would go back to work, but this time the Bronco defense came up with a big stop, and were able to get the ball back with just over 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. With the opportunity to take the lead, and the Pirates not able to stop the rushing game, it was back to the ground for the Broncos, and once again Jordan pulled off a big run to give the Broncos some good field position. Rodebaugh then took some big runs up the middle, and Kleckler connected on his only pass attempt of the game, as he hit Schofield for a 13 yard gain. Once inside the red zone, it was all go for Rodebaugh, as he punched in another big run from 5 yards out to push the Broncos back into the lead with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The two point conversion failed, but the Broncos had the lead 26-21 entering the 4th quarter.
The Pirates would get the ball in the 4th quarter with over 9 minutes remaining, but it wouldn't take long for them to score, as Wyatt Brant found his way outside for a 65 yard TD run. The Butler kick was good, moving Cumberland back into the lead of this seesaw battle 28-26 with 8:17 to go.
Once again, the Broncos were ready to attack, and once again it didn't take long. Rodebaugh would rush up the middle, find some green grass, and it was off to the races as he broke a tackle attempt around the 5 yard line to get in the endzone to push the Broncos back into the lead with 7:07 left in the game. Once again, the two point try failed, but the Broncos were up 32-28.
The Pirates wouldn't go away into the evening lightly. They would continue to attack as Hatfill found Gehardt for a connection, then he found Butler on another connection, then Brant ran up the middle for some yardage. All of a sudden the Pirates were banging deep in Bronco territory with under 3 minutes to go. That is when the Broncos defense stepped up. With the ball at the Bronco 14 yard line, Chad Diddens sacked Hatfill on 4th and 5, and gave the Broncos the ball with a minute left. Coach Jay Doyle then called a timeout to let the boys know the importance of ball security as they would go into victory formation. After the first snap, Cumberland called their final timeout with 57 seconds left. With that being their last timeout, Kleckler just needed one more snap to put this one in the books with a 32-28 victory for the Broncos.
With the win, the Broncos became playoff-eligible, and have a high probability of making the field of 32 for the 2nd straight year for the first time since 1996-1997, when Coach Jay Doyle was throwing daggers to Assistant Willi Guy and the high scoring Broncos.
For the game, Garret Rodebaugh led the offense and defense, as he put up 223 yards rushing on 25 attempts with 4 TDs, and collected 15 tackles on defense with 8 solo tackles. Chase Jordan rushed the ball 7 times for 129 yards and 1 TD, and collected 7 tackles on defense.
For the Pirates, Gabe Hatfill went 16-27 passing for 207 yards with 3 TD and 1 INT. His main targets were Myles Gerhardt who finished with 5 receptions for 83 yards and 2 TD, and Connor Butler who hauled in 6 passes for 71 yards and 1 TD. The Pirate rushing attack was led by Wyatt Brant with 170 yards on 29 attempts with 1 TD.
Orangeville (5-2) @ East Dubuque (2-5)