An excited crowd cheered on the Orange Panthers on the road as they made their way onto Tommy Blalock Field at Riverside High School Friday night. Although the Panthers ultimately lost the game 28-26, the team had much to be thankful about. Head Coach Van Smith felt extremely proud of the work his team put into the game.
“We played toe-to-toe with Goliath,” he said. To go head on with them, I am so tickled with football team, I don’t know what to do. If they wanted to strap up and play again tomorrow, I would be ready right now, I am so excited about my team and how far we have come in just a few weeks, I’m ready to play again tomorrow if ever we had to.”
Coach Smith’s expression was one of optimism and great faith in the Panthers football team.
The main take-away from the Panthers game strategy was that of a strong defense. In the struggle to make the first touchdown, both teams showed a clear struggle to overcome one another on the field. A first down was made by the Riverside Pirates and six minutes into the first quarter, they scored the first touchdown of the game. Each touchdown made by the Pirates was welcomed by the firing of a cannon, courtesy of the Riverside JROTC.
As the crowd for Orange grew slightly restless at the end of the first quarter, the Panther cheerleaders kept moral high with cheers of “Let’s go Panthers” and “Panthers tighten up!” Orange was able to get on the scoreboard near the end of the first quarter, kicking a field goal to make it a 6-3 contest.
The Pirates played aggressively on offense, as they battled the strong defensive plays of the Panthers, particularly during the first half of the game. Going into the second half, the Panthers trailed by just one point at 14-13. However, the Pirates were able to outpace the Panthers in the second half, again outscoring them 14-13, to take a hard-fought 28-26 victory.
On the night, Orange displayed a highly effective rushing attack, with senior Machai Holt and sophomore Omarion Lewis leading the way. Holt carried the ball 13 times for 49 yards, and Lewis added 52 yards on the ground on 13 carries.
For Daniel Champion, a junior wide receiver and defensive back for Orange, the night was a remarkable one.
“I think we did pretty good tonight because everybody before the game was like ‘They will beat y’all 6-0,’ but we just came in with the mentality that we were going to break them,” Champion said.
“Even though we didn’t have the score we wanted, we still fought our hearts out.”