Friday nights in October are always special. Light up a field with and place two teams on it that are separated by 9 miles, have bloodlines that go back over a century, renew a rivalry that has been there for over 80 years, and sprinkle a playoff atmosphere in a big game situation on top. That is what you have when Orangeville and Dakota kicked off their rivalry that had been desolate since 2008.
Both teams entered Friday's contest with matching 4-3 records, and on paper, stats, rankings, and ratings, all arrows pointed to Dakota as the favorite. What was hidden in the paper is what you can't see, and that is sheer grit, determination, and flat out team speed. On Friday night, Orangeville was more superior in those facets as they knocked the Indians off, and possibly out of the playoffs, with a big 23-16 win on the road.
Orangeville would defer the toss, Dakota chose to receive, and opening kick off went out of bounds giving Dakota the ball at its own 35 yard line to start the game. A short gain by Kade Wales, a 12 yard run by Josh Clark, a Clark pass to Evan Riggle, and an 18 yard Ben Holste scamper would put the Indians on the board in just 1:48 of play. The conversion run was good as Dakota took the early 8-0 lead.
Two minutes later the Indians would force the Broncos into a three and out and force the punt. Taking over from their own 30 yard line, the Indians would move the ball to the 47 yard line. There they would end up facing a 4th and 3, send the punt team out, but the snap went to the first upback, Josh Clark. Running to his right on an punt fake option he would pitch the ball to Quinton Heilemeier, but the Bronco defense had it sniffed out and stuffed him for a 1 yard loss and a turnover on downs.
Orangeville would take that momentum, and ride their horse on the legs of Garret Rodebaugh down the field. A Chase Jordan 7 yard touchdown run with just 12 seconds remaining in the 1st quarter, and 2 point conversion run, would tie the game up at 8 heading into the 2nd quarter.
Both teams would play nip and tuck, battling for field position, and force each other to punt. With 5:38 left in the half, Orangeville would take over at their own 2 yard line after a Heilemeier punt landed nose first just before the goal line, took a huge bounce backward in the air, as a Dakota player would down the ball.
Once again, the Broncos went to work with Rodebaugh, but would benefit on some costly Dakota penalties, but the Indian defense would stifle the Broncos at the Dakota 5 yard line. With just 6 seconds left in the half, Zach Baker would kick a 22 yard field goal to take an 11-8 lead into the half.
Getting the ball at the half, Orangeville wasted no time, as they started their first drive of the 2nd half at their own 35 yard line. A run by Rodebaugh set up a 50 yard run on a sweep to the right by Chase Jordan, as he outran everyone down the right sideline to the endzone. The extra point try was no good, but Orangeville extended their lead to 17-8 with 9:32 to play in the 3rd.
Dakota would take their next possession and drive to the Orangeville 15 yard line, as Clark connected with Jacob Kleckner on a big 23 yard pass play, followed by a connection with Wyatt Rockey for another 10 yards, but the drive would stall with 6:08 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the very next play Orangeville ran a buck sweep to the right once again, as Jordan took the ball off right end to the outside and found a hole up the right sideline for an 85 yard touchdown run. Once again the extra point try failed, but Orangeville held a 23-8 lead over Dakota with 5:55 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Indians would put together a drive that took 9:44 off the clock, as Clark found some friends through the air, as he connected Kleckner, Holste, and Rockey again. Clark would punch the ball in himself from the 1 yard line, and the two point conversion was good, closing the score to a 23-16 Orangeville lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Carter Kleckler would return the kick to the Dakota 22 yard line. The Dakota defense came up big and turned the Broncos away. Giving Dakota life with just 6:11 left in the game, the Indians began moving towards midfield. When Clark dropped back to pass from his own 43 yard line, he threw to his left, but Orangeville's Jake Doyle cut underneath the route to pick off the ball to seal the game. Dakota would end up with one last chance as they forced Orangeville to turn the ball over on downs with 24 seconds remaining in the game, but it ended on a harmless 10 yard pass play from Clark to Wales to end the game.
With the win Orangeville (5-3) becomes playoff eligible with their 5th win. They will play Milledgeville (1-7) next week looking to improve their playoff seeding and clinch a spot in the playoffs. Dakota (4-4) will be at home again to play Stockton (5-3). A Dakota win will put Dakota in the playoffs, but a loss will knock them out and guarantee a spot for Stockton. There is a lot riding on the line in that match-up.
For the night, Orangeville out gained the Indians 328 yards to 247 yards. The Broncos were led by Chase Jordan, who had 12 carries for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. Garret Rodebaugh added in 91 yards rushing on 20 carries.
For the Indians, Josh Clark led the offense with 125 yards passing with 8 completions on 17 attempts. He also led the team in rushing with 42 yards and 1 touchdown. Ben Holsted pitched in with 41 yards rushing and 1 touchdown, while Kade Wales had 24 yards on 8 receptions. Jacob Kleckner had 3 receptions for 44 yards.