Perhaps it was the substance of the Jefferson District rivalry. Perhaps it was the anticipation of potential postseason play. Perhaps it was the apprehension of the moment.
Whatever the reason, this past Friday evening’s contest between Orange County and Goochland High School was an anxiety-riddled game that at times deteriorated into an error-prone, miscue-peppered matchup.
Yet after 23 collective penalties for 240 yards between the two squads, the Hornets eventually prevailed in winning 33-15.
Improving its playoff chances significantly with the victory, Orange (7-2/4-2) churned out 542 yards of total offense with the majority coming through the ground game at 373 yards.
Capitalizing on their opening possession, the Hornets used a nine-play drive to move efficiently down the field, culminating in Christian Simpson sprinting around the left end of the Goochland line for a five-yard touchdown run with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead.
A rapid response from the Bulldogs tied the score when quarterback Blayke Flaherty completed a 59-yard scoring strike to Mason Gregory. Goochland took the lead by a point following Tyler Black’s successful extra point with 3:18 on the first quarter clock.
Tallying the first of his two touchdown aerials on the night, Jeremiah Wharton spotted Brody Foran for a 29-yard score as Foran beat his defender to the spot to push Orange in front 12-7 after the two-point conversion failed.
Wharton displayed a spectacular night through the air, completing 11 of 14 passes for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
An early back-and-forth affair had Goochland (3-6/3-3) edge past its visitors with 5:20 remaining before halftime as Flaherty bulled over from one-yard out for the score and, moments later, tacked on a two-point conversion to give his team a 15-13 advantage.
Seemingly unable to stop each other from scoring when possessing the football, each school developed a flexible defensive posture until a key juncture in the contest allowed Orange the leverage it needed to propel itself in front for good.
Having to punt from their own 44-yard line, the Hornets benefited from a muff offered up by Goochland’s return man, recovering it deep inside Bulldog territory at the 25-yard line. Three plays later, Simpson slipped into the end zone from the five-yard line to head the Hornets in the right direction. Following Austin Frazier’s extra point, the score was 19-15 with 2:15 left on the clock heading into the break.
Between Dwayne “Bubba” Wells’ 168 yards rushing and Simpsons’ 157-yard ground game, the duo accounted for an astounding 87% of the total Hornet running attack. Simpson also contributed two scores on his game resume.
Despite a couple of possible scoring opportunities abruptly ending by way of turnover, Orange would nonetheless run off 20 consecutive unanswered points to down its hosts unceremoniously.
As both teams would take the third quarter off from putting points on the board, the Hornets took control in the final stanza as, with 9:06 remaining, Wharton found Bryant Chiles for a 13-yard score and made the count 26-15.
Forcing the Bulldogs into a punt situation, Orange moved the football fluently down the field, allowing Wharton to scoot through the middle of the Bulldog front line for a nine-yard touchdown and the final tally.
Orange will finish out the regular season on the road when it travels to Western Albemarle High School on Friday evening for a 7:00 p.m. scheduled kickoff.