As much as No. 5-ranked Orange would like to revel in its most recent road victory, this week’s game overshadows everything. The undefeated Panthers won’t be dwelling on last Friday’s 20-6 win against Cardinal Gibbons for long.
Just like last year, the Big Eight 3A Conference title is in the balance as Orange meets undefeated Southern Durham in this week’s regular-season finale.
“I guess it’s already over,” Orange coach Pat Moser said after the win at Gibbons. “It’s time for us to start getting ready. We’ll enjoy this for the evening.”
Orange is 22-2 over the past two seasons, and both losses came last year against the 3AA state champs, who have won 23 straight.
“We’re going to enjoy it and look ahead at the same time. But that game – that’s the one we want, and it’s the one we’re going to get. We’re all business from here until next Friday,” Orange quarterback Garrett Cloer said.
Southern (10-0, 6-0) is ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press statewide among North Carolina’s 3A teams. The Spartans shut out Oxford Webb 68-0 last Friday.
Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton (11-14-0, 201 yards) passed for five touchdowns – all in the first half as the Spartans rolled to a 55-0 lead after two quarters. He threw scoring strikes of 21 yards to Will Cameron, 28 to Jordan Brown, 69 and 8 yards to Jason Henderson, and 5 yards to James Taylor.
Will Cameron also scored on an 18-yard run in the second quarter. Myron Frazier and Taron Thomas tacked on second-half TDs on runs of 2 and 22 yards, respectively.
The Spartan special teams did their part, with Montreal Cherry blocking a Webb (2-8, 0-6) punt in the end zone that Isaiah Ross recovered for a touchdown, and Kaleb Barfield returning another punt for a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half.
“We’re going to have to play good defense on a (Southern) team that scores a lot of points. They key to our victory is defense,” Moser said.
Orange (10-0, 6-0), ranked No. 5 statewide in 3A and No. 3 in The N&O area, clamped down last Friday on the spread offense of Cardinal Gibbons (6-4, 3-3).
The Crusaders managed 168 yards of total offense (22 rushing, 146 passing), but more importantly for Orange, Gibbons got four drives into the red zone but came away with just six points.
“We played the bend-but-don’t break (defense). They were able to move the ball,” Moser said.
Two Panther touchdown runs by Tay Jones (11-51) were called back by penalties, and Cloer (5-10-1, 122 yards) committed the game’s only turnover with an interception.
“We can’t have mistakes in a big game. Whoever makes the least mistakes usually wins,” Cloer said.
Despite the negated touchdowns, Orange led 14-3 at halftime.
Jones tacked on a 3-yard run in the third quarter but left the game on crutches.
“That left foot is bothering him. It’s not his ankle, it’s down below his toe. We’re hoping he’s OK,” Moser said.
Riverside and Northern are tied for second in the PAC-6.
PAC Six 4A Conference
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Big Eight 3A Conference