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Sutter football headed to title game
Huskies edge Orland 14-6
It was nearly a year ago when Sutter High football coach Ryan Reynolds challenged his players on a rain-soaked field in Orland.
The Huskies had just lost to the Trojans 14-0 in the Northern Section Division II championship game, and Reynolds had a simple postgame message for a team that was returning several of its key players in 2012 — "We'll be back."
A year later, the Huskies are indeed back in the title game, and they have their defense to thank for it.
Playing on a muddy Wayne Gadberry Field on Friday night, the Huskies fought through a driving rainstorm and a stout Orland defense to earn a hard-fought 14-6 victory in the section semifinals, giving Sutter its fifth title game appearance in the past six years.
Two big plays by the Huskies' defense proved to be the difference as senior safety Philip Robledo scooped up a third-quarter fumble and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown for Sutter's first points of the game.
Two plays later, cornerback Andy Brower picked off a pass and returned it to the Orland 5-yard line, setting up a short touchdown run by Alex Ingram that all but put the game away.
"There's no question, our defense was phenomenal tonight — they always are," Reynolds said. "I can't say enough about those guys and our coaching staff, too. The amount of work those guys put in is unreal."
In a game featuring two of the top defenses in the section, it was no surprise both teams struggled to move the ball, especially in the downpour.
No. 1 Sutter (12-0) amassed a mere 150 yards of total offense on the night, while No. 4 Orland (9-3) didn't fare much better with 156 yards.
"The rain slowed us down a bit," Reynolds explained. "People don't think we're a speed team, but we are. We were rounding our cuts tonight instead of being more direct."
After a scoreless opening quarter, Orland finally broke onto the scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Sutter had a golden opportunity to find paydirt later in the second when sophomore call-up Riley Vickner blocked a punt to set the Huskies up at the Orland 11-yard line.
However, Sutter missed a 29-yard field goal on the drive and failed to score again on a short field after a shanked punt by the Trojans set them up at the 25.
Rosas then booted a 36-yard field goal with 56 seconds remaining in the half to give the Trojans a 6-0 lead at the break.
Then came the play of the night.
After the teams exchanged punts to open the half, Orland fumbled the ball on a option play and Robledo was on the spot to scoop it up. The three-year starter followed an escort all the way to the end zone, and when Erika Linch converted the point-after kick, the Huskies took a 7-6 lead and seized the momentum as well.
"That was a gamebreaker right there," Reynolds said. "I knew once we kicked the PAT we were in good shape because our defense was playing so well."
Indeed, Sutter's defense was playing well, and when Brower's pick set up Ingram's 1-yard plunge on fourth down, the Huskies all but knew they had the game in hand.
"I was really hoping we would get them by a field goal," said Orland coach Mike McDonald. "They're a good football team and they got the scoop-and-score. We made mistakes and you can't do that against championship teams.
"If our offense controls the ball and doesn't turn it over, I think we have a shot."
The win by the Huskies also gave them redemption from last year when they fell to Orland twice for their only two losses of the season. This time, Sutter was able to return the favor.
"They were the only guys to slow us down all year," Reynolds said. "They gave us their best shot, and gave us everything they had."
Sutter will host No. 3 West Valley in the championship game on Saturday after the Eagles edged No. 2 Central Valley 13-10 in the other semifinal.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this," Reynolds added. "It's for everything."