GAME OF YEAR II: Orange at Southern, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
It was billed as the Game of the Year on Nov. 8 and it more than lived up to expectations as Southern High School held serve 55-41 in a game that turned on an Orange onside kick that Southern recovered with 3:08 to play and Orange trailing 48-41.
Little did anyone know at the time, that showdown between 8-2 Southern and 10-0 Orange was just an appetizer for Friday’s main course, Game of the Year II — Orange at Southern, 7:30 p.m.
This meeting means more than the first one did — and that one handed the prestigious Big Eight 3-A Conference title to Southern by a game over Orange. Friday’s Elite Eight 3-AA state playoff game will determine who moves on to play in the state semifinals and a shot at the 3-AA state championship.
It’s familiar turf for Orange, the state 3-AA semifinalist a year ago, but the 3-AA playoff thrust is new to this group of Southern players who competed in the 4-A ranks before being reclassified to 3-A for this season.
Will Friday’s game be different than that Nov. 8 classic? The two coaches — Pat Moser of Orange (12-1) and Adrian Jones of Southern (11-2) — aren’t of the same mind on that.
Jones thinks the “real” Southern was the team that ignored all the pre-game hype and roared to a 27-0 lead with 11:20 left in the second quarter.
He said that if Southern jumps out early on Orange this time, the Spartans have to keep up the pressure and leave no room for a comeback.
“You have to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer,” Jones said. “If we’re up like that against them, we’ve got to make sure we keep pounding.”
Moser hopes and believes that the Orange players who cut Southern’s edge to 48-41 with 3:08 to play on a 76-yard scoring pass from Garrett Cloer to Patrick Pettiford before failing to corral the onside kick will give that same effort from the opening kickoff tonight.
“I hope we don’t start (down) 27-0,” Moser said. “That was a good game, but we just didn’t play well early. We came back because we executed better, had a feeling of urgency trying to catch up. Who knows what would have happened if we’d gotten that onside kick?”
Moser said the comeback might have come up short on the scoreboard, but not in the minds of his players.
“The kids feel like they can play with Southern,” Moser said.
Jones said he expects to see the dominant Southern that opened the Nov. 8 win when play begins on Friday night and he expects the memory of the Orange comeback to fuel his players’ intensity, saying the Spartans got a little lackadaisical after building the huge lead.
“I guess they learned their lesson,” Jones said of his players, particularly the defense, adding that it wasn’t the coaching staff that eased off the throttle. “We didn’t as coaches call the dogs off,” he said.
Jones added that he didn’t plan to do much tweaking of his offensive or defensive schemes for this one, but Moser expects to see a lot of different wrinkles from Southern.
“Just like us, they’ll be looking at film and seeing what they can do differently this time — and so will we,” Moser said. “It’ll be a different game. I just hope it has a different outcome.”
Moser added that playing Southern again comes as no surprise to him or his team.
“I told (my team) the first time there was a pretty good chance that we’d play them again because I think they’re the best team in the state — I’m not sure there are any better,” Moser said. “And here it is.”
Will Friday night’s showdown be another shootout?
“I would love for our offense to have a high scoring-game,” Jones said, adding the caveat: “I definitely don’t want them to score a lot of points.”
Moser wouldn’t be shocked to see the scoreboard light up since he knows what he’s got on offense with Cloer throwing for about 2,300 yards, Pettiford rushing for 1,100 yards despite missing two games with injury and adding key receiving threat as well, and fellow running back Tay Jones in the 1,800-yard rushing neighborhood as Pettiford’s partner in Orange’s double wing offense.
Southern answers with stars of his own including junior Kendall Hinton who cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week and has thrown for more than 3,200 yards as well. His top targets are 1,000-plus yard receivers Maurice Trowell and Derrick Mason and his top running backs — William Cameron and Jordan Brown — have combined to rush for almost 1,400 yards.
Both teams have outstanding return personnel as well. Trowell (punts) and Cameron (kicks) will be playing major college football at N.C. State and West Virginia, respectively, next year and are threats to go all the way every time they touch the ball. Orange punt returner J.D. Brooks has returned six for scores this year and Pettiford and Jones are deadly kick return threats as well.
Moser has called Hinton one of, if not the best, quarterbacks in the state if not the nation and said it’s not coincidence that what was a stalwart Orange defense all season was torched by Hinton & Co. Nov. 8.
He said recently that no matter how solid a team’s pass coverage is, a great quarterback with a great arm and great accuracy can burn it anyway.
NOTES — Jones was asked how he’ll keep Southern’s players focused with the distraction of Thanksgiving coming into play this week. “That’s going to be tough,” Jones said, adding he may have to send out a mass text message asking parents and guardians to keep an eye on his Spartans while they’re at the dinner table.
WHEN SOUTHERN HAS THE BALL ...
Southern Offense Orange Defense
C — Kalif Dean DE — Mark Holt
RG — Eric Allen LT — Jake Frederick
LG — Christian Howze RT — Byron Stephenson
LT — Noah Chase DE — Artrell Stewart
RT — Devonta Lynch OLB — Bryse Wilson
WR — Maurice Trowell ILB — Drew Lemaster
WR — Jordan Brown ILB — Nic Schultz
WR — Derrick Mason OLB — Collin Pope
WR — Kerry Ivory CB — J.D. Brooks
RB — William Cameron CB — A.J. Bradsher
QB — Kendall Hinton FS — Michael Bolden
WHEN ORANGE HAS THE BALL ...
Orange Offense Southern Defense
C — Adam Reynolds RT—Tyler Herbert
RG — Austin Sykes NG — Christian Howze
LG — Tyler Reitano DE — Tahj Spivey
LT — Nick Gentile DE — Montreal Cherry
RT — Joe Poole MLB — Omal Sullivan
WR — Artrell Stewart WLB — Dominique Mims
WR — Ky Muller SS — Kameron Johnson
WB — Patrick Pettiford ROV — Josh Manns
WB — Tay Jones FS — Marvin Tillman
FB — Michael Bolden CB — Jeremy Griffis
QB — Garrett Cloer CB — Kaleb Barfield
P — Gregory Washington P — Brad Barbee
K — Leonardo Orozco K — Seth Mathis
PR — Maurice Trowell PR — J.D. Brooks
KR — William Cameron KR — Patrick Pettiford
or Tay Jones
GAME OF THE YEAR I
(Played Nov. 8 at Southern)
SOUTHERN 55, ORANGE 41
Orange 0 13 21 7 — 41
Southern 20 14 14 7 — 55
S — Kendall Hinton 36 run (Leonardo Orozco kick), 6:28
S — Jordan Brown 41 run (Orozco kick), 3;30
S — Derrick Mason 18 pass from Hinton (kick failed), 0:23.5
S — William Cameron 5 run (Orozco kick), 11:20
O — Tay Jones 93 run (Brad Barbee kick), 2:27
S — Kerry Ivory 31 pass from Hinton (Orozco kick), 0:59.6
O — Jones 29 pass from Garrett Cloer (kick blocked), 0:25
O — Patrick Pettiford 5 run (Barbee kick), 8:27
S — Maurice Trowell 4 pass from Hinton (Orozco kick), 3:58
O — Pettiford 4 run (Barbee kick), 2:22
S — Mason 49 pass from Hinton (Orozco kick), 1:30
O — Ky Muller 70 pass from Cloer (Barbee kick), 34.5
O — Pettiford 76 pass from Cloer (Barbee kick), 3:08
S — Trowell 44 pass from Hinton (Orozco kick), 1:58
RUSHING — Orange, Patrick Pettiford 13-92, Michael Bolden 5-21, Garrett Cloer 4-13; Southern, Kendall Hinton 9-88, William Cameron 7-20, Jordan Brown 5-47.
PASSING — Orange, Garrett Cloer 7-18-1 111; Southern, Kendall Hinton 27-40-1 407.
RECEIVING —Orange, Artrell Stewart 3-59, Ky Muller 2-42, Jeffrey Campbell 1-7, Patrick Pettiford 1-3; Southern, Derrick Mason 9-146, Maurice Trowell 10-175, Kerry Ivory 3-39.