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Pirates keeps things tight until Orland's late surge
It was a game with big playoff implications, and for nearly three quarters, Wheatland High's Butte View League contest against visiting Orland was as tight as one could get.
Then, just like that, it became a blowout.
In a game that became a hard-hitting, offensive track meet of sorts, Orland held a 21-20 lead before breaking things open by scoring 27 points in the final 15 minutes and left John Sohrakoff Jr. Field with an impressive 48-20 victory over the Pirates.
Big plays were huge on this night as Orland went on to rack up 507 yards on the ground, while Wheatland had 330 yards of total offense with most of them coming through the air.
In the end, however, it was the Trojans' non-stop power running game that turned the game around, lifting Orland to 7-2 overall and to 4-1 in the BVL. Wheatland slipped to 6-3 on the year and 3-2 in league play with the loss.
"It was a lot closer than the score indicates. A couple plays here and there and it's a different game," Wheatland coach Neil Stinson said. "Defensively, we had a couple opportunities to get off the field and we didn't do it. And against that kind of offense, you can't do that."
The biggest thorn in Wheatland's side was senior running back Zack Garzoli, who rushed for a game-high 161 yards and three touchdowns, including a 57-yard scoring jaunt on the first play of the game.
Wheatland answered Orland's quick score later in the first quarter when junior Jackson Hopking hooked up with Jordan Samson for a 27-yard TD pass to tie the game at 7-7.
The Trojans reclaimed the lead on a short scoring run by Benito Garcia on the first play of the second period, but once again the Pirates knotted things up when Hopking hit Samson for a 76-yard touchdown pass.
Orland took a 21-14 lead at the break, but Wheatland struck quickly to open the second half when Hopking fired his third TD pass of the game, this one a beautiful 78-yarder to Michael Woods to cut the lead to 21-20.
It was all Trojans after that, though, as Aldrick Rosas scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and quarterback Tyler Batchelder raced in for a 58-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to break open what was, to that point, anyone's game.
"They didn't confuse us. We knew coming in they had a heck of a passing game and they threw the ball well tonight." Orland coach Mike McDonald said. "They were stopping us up the middle, so we got outside on them and that was the difference late. I'm proud of our offensive line and the adjustments they made."
Hopking finished the game 10 of 20 for 249 yards and three touchdowns, while Samson hauled in three of those passes for 114 yards and two scores. Demane Tenner led the charge for the Pirates' defense with 14 solo tackles, three assists and a sack.
Rosas had 93 yards rushing for Orland, which piled up 247 rushing yards in the final quarter alone.
With the win, the Trojans all but locked up a first-round home game when the Northern Section Division II playoffs kick off on Nov. 9. The Pirates will most likely have to travel for their playoff opener with the loss.
"We knew what was at stake tonight," said McDonald, "and we'll probably see each other again."