QB Garrett Cloer's loss late sounded death knell for Orange
Ask anyone on the Orange football team and he’ll tell you, 6-foot-2, 190-pound quarterback Garrett Cloer is a tough kid with a will to win and the talent to lead.
So it was no surprise on a broken play in the fourth quarter against Southern on a bitterly cold Friday night Cloer would tuck the ball away and head downfield to beckoning daylight himself.
The decision was costly for the Panthers. Cloer was stood up and crushed in a ferocious vice of gang tackling along the Southern sideline. He arose unsteadily, wobbled across the field to the Orange sideline, and when he dropped to a knee before he got there, the Panthers’ odds of coming back dropped just as precipitously.
“He’s just a competitor and was trying to make something happen over there on their sideline,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “He was flushed out of the pocket and was trying to make something happen, and so he was trying to get as much yardage as he could down the sideline and just took a big hit.”
Cloer was still being checked for a possible concussion after the game. Moser said the injury was a turning point in the game.
“It definitely hurt us,” Moser said. “He’s our leader. He’s our captain,” and he was positioning Orange for another score when he was injured.
“We were down a touchdown when he went out, and we had the ball up around midfield. So anything could have happened at that point if we put a drive together and tied it up,” Moser said.
Backup QB Bryse Wilson “did a great job coming in to fill in for him,” although he sputtered at first and had to warm up to the task after a three-and-out series, Moser said.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Moser said, “so we knew that he could move us down the field, that’s not a problem. They were giving us some soft coverage so we threw some underneath routes and our receivers made some big plays, and we took it downfield quick” to draw within 31-24 with under a minute to play. “Just couldn’t get the onsides kick.”
It was the second time Orange lost to the Spartans this year, and with the road to the state semifinals going through Durham, the Panthers found the task too tall an order.
“Definitely we have a tough time matching up with them,” Moser said.
“I think if the stars would line up one night, yeah, we could beat Southern. They would have to make a mistake or two, a turnover or two, and we would have to play real well,” Moser said. “I’m looking for them to be tough to beat the rest of the way out. They might just win it all.”
As for the Panthers, “it’s a great season” with 12 victories, “the most wins that Orange has ever had so it’s a special group of kids,” Moser said of his 12-2 program whose only previous loss came Nov. 8 55-41 also at Southern.
“You hate that it has to end, but Southern is deserving,” Moser said. “Right now we’ll just have to go home and start preparing for next year.”
NOTES — Orange came up one win short of its performance a year ago when it reached the state 3-AA semifinals. The Panthers were eliminated the week before the state championship round.