MARYVILLE, Mo. – The only thing falling more than the rain at Bearcat Stadium Friday night were the flags thrown by the referees. No referee wants to be the reason a game is won or lost, but they made their presence felt in Worth County’s 28-6 win over the Orrick Bearcats.
The two teams came into the match up averaging over 60 points per game each. But it was the two defenses that shined in a game that had just 12 first half points.
“It’s so hard telling, you have film and you see stuff, but there’s no common opponent and it’s tough to gage speed,” Tigers coach Chris Healy said. “Their defense ends did a good job of giving us different looks; sometimes they would play contain and sometimes they wouldn’t. So that kind of tricked us a little and they did a good job of executing whatever they came in trying to do.”
The rain played its part early on in the game, especially on the offensive side of the ball for Worth County. The Tigers took over inside the Bearcat red zone after a blocked punt by Jaxon Anderson. Tigers’ running back Andrew Alarcon fumbled on the team’s first play—but the ball was recovered by the offense. Alarcon then fumbled on the second play of the drive, this time, the Orrick defense recovered.
“We started off slow, fumble right off the bat but then we picked it up a little,” Worth County quarterback Aydan Gladstone said.
The Tiger defense has allowed just 12 points over the last two weeks and Orrick had no answers on the offensive side of the ball early on. The Bearcats went three-and-out on their second possession and after moving the chains on their third possession, Orrick allowed back-to-back sacks leading to a punt.
Worth County found their groove offensively on their second drive. Gladstone broke free for a 12-yard run and then connected with Alex Rinehart for a 14-yard pass. The sophomore running back capped off the drive with seventh rushing touchdown of the season.
“He’s (Rinehart) is a fun guy to play with, he always brings emotion and he’s always up and ready to go,” Gladstone said.
Rinehart’s 36-yard catch helped the Tigers move the ball deep into Orrick territory on the team’s fourth drive. The Orrick defense bent on that play but didn’t break, forcing Gladstone and the offense into a fourth and eight. The Bearcats held and took over at their own 18-yard line.
Orrick quarterback Ethan Wilson had thrown for 15 yards before Friday night’s game. He added to that on the Bearcats’ ensuing possession, connecting with wide receiver Gabe McAfee for a 62-yard touchdown. McAfee had just 60 yards receiving coming into the game.
Worth County appeared as though they were going to answer the Orrick score with one of their own, moving the ball 40 yards on nine plays and into Bearcat territory. But again, the defense forced a turnover on downs.
Most games the Worth County offense was responsible for responding to an opposing team’s score. In this game, it was the Tiger defense that need to respond to the Orrick defense. After the turnover on downs, they did just that with their 15th takeaway of the season. Rinehart’s interception off Wilson’s pass was his third of the season.
Worth County ran into some trouble on the ensuing possession. Orrick forced a fourth and seven that became 12 after a false start penalty. Even with his offense pushed back another five yards, Healy didn’t send his punt team onto the field. Instead, a screen pass to Rinehart went for 18 yards and a Tigers’ first down.
Alarcon’s longest run of the half took Worth County down inside the Orrick 10-yard line. The long run was all for not as the Tigers were called for holding. With just under a minute remaining in the half, Gladstone was intercepted by Wilson. The Bearcats ran out the clock as the two teams went into halftime tied at six.
Healy’s halftime speech worked for Worth County as Rinehart’s first two carries of the second half went for 18 yards. Gladstone then connected with Reed McIntyre on the team’s third play for a 41-yard touchdown—giving Worth County a 14-6 lead.
Orrick begain the second half with their fifth three-and-out in their first seven possessions. The two teams then traded possessions in which each were flagged for a penalty that put them in position where they each need at least 30 yards for a first down.
The Bearcats not only achieved the first down but believed they had scored on second and 30 with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to McAfee. Or so they thought, the referees then dropped a flag after the play was over. Orrick was penalized for an illegal formation, the referee had noticed that the Bearcats had too many men in the backfield, but the flag was never thrown.
The Bearcats were forced to punt and the defense responded by forcing a three-and-out. The Worth County special teams made its mark for the second time with their second blocked punt of the game. Rinehart then scored from 11 yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
“We tried to get a little more assertive up front, in the first half we got a little cute with what we were doing offensively,” Healy said. “In the second half we wanted to come out and win the line of scrimmage and run downhill a little more.”
The referee’s made their second questionable call of the half on what appeared to be defensive pass interference. The call went against Orrick who’s drive ended with a turnover on downs.
Gladstone and Rinehart put the game away with a 15-yard carry from Gladstone that was followed by a 21-yard touchdown from Rinehart. After coming in with just six rushing touchdowns through five games, Rinehart’s total jumped to nine after his three-touchdown performance Friday night.
“Both those two sophomores made plays when they needed to,” Healy said. “Alarcon was a key player for us this year, but he was banged up and couldn’t carry the ball in the second half. So we needed Rinehart and Gladstone to step up and they did a good job.”
The Tigers will face their toughest opponent yet next week as they travel to face Pattonsburg. The Panthers are 6-0 and coming off an 82-84 win over Rich Hill.
“We’re just going to have to come out and play a great game, play Worth County football and execute,” Rinehart said.
Worth County will face the state’s top passer in Steven Willhite. The senior quarterback has 2,237 passing yards through six games and 37 touchdowns. The Tigers defeated Willhite and the Panthers 56-0 in the playoffs last season. It was the first time Pattonsburg had been shutout since 2017—by Worth County. Healy knows his team will be tested.
“We’re going to Pattonsburg to play the best team in the state,” Healy said. “It will be a fun week to prepare for, a lot of different looks that we haven’t seen all year. We’ve got a big mountain ahead of us.”