The dark clouds that ended several football games early Friday night stayed away from Orange High School long enough for the Panthers to complete a 45-12 rout of 4A Riverside.
The game marked the third straight win for Orange (3-0) over a PAC-6 team and also the first appearance this season for Panther running back Tay Jones. He scored Orange’s first touchdown from scrimmage, on a 10-yard run, and sprinted 58 yards for a third quarter touchdown that put Orange ahead 42-7.
“We’re getting better,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “We’ve made some adjustments the last couple of weeks and [I think] were starting to come together as a good team.
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“We played much better this week than we played last week.”
Brent Baldwin opened the scoring with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown after the Panthers stymied Riverside’s first drive.
“We’re always making changes on personnel,” Moser said. “and we’re seeing who’s better here or there, or if we move them to one side of the ball or the other.”
A 35-yard field goal by Davis Dixon ended Orange’s scoring with 1:52 left in regulation, just enough time for Riverside (0-3) to squeeze out a touchdown on a 20-yard pass from reserve quarterback Drew “Colt” Gore to Kendall Tomb.
Riverside’s only other touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from starter Diante Strothers to Devin Yarborough.
Orange’s Eric Dean ran 26 yards for one touchdown and scored another on a 62-yard pass from Garrett Cloer to help the Panthers roll to a 28-0 lead by halftime.
Cloer opened the second half with a 65-yard strike to Deangelo Compton that put range up 35-0.
“I think Garrett threw the ball well tonight,” Moser said. “We didn’t press it too much; we’ve got good running backs. We came into the game wanting to run and I think that opened up some of our passing later on as the game went on. I thought he managed the game well, our running backs ran well, and our defense played exceptionally well.”
The win sets up Orange for next week’s potentially emotional game at Graham. Moser led Graham to two appearances in the NCHSAA 1A state finals, and he produced a state championship for the Red Devils in 2000 after a runner-up finish the year before.
Orange walloped Graham 35-0 last year in the first meeting of the two old rivals since Moser arrived in Hillsborough in 2009.