On a snowy and blustery night more suited to mid-November, Orono played its final home game of the regular season against section rival Holy Angels. It was big night in many ways for the Spartans and the game turned into a classic late season high school football contest that saw the Spartans emerge from a seesaw contest with a 35-21 victory. The night started with a pregame ceremony recognizing the team’s seniors.
“It was a special game at Orono tonight – we got to honor our seniors last home game of the year. It is always fun to see the players and their parents have one final moment at home. We have a great senior class this year and I’m proud of all of them for the careers they have had at Orono,” Head Coach Joe McPherson commented.
Holy Angels got on the board first by capitalizing on a rare Spartan fumble on the opening kickoff. The Stars recovered and it took them just three plays to find the endzone on a 19 yard touchdown pass. It did not take Orono long to answer and that score came in dramatic fashion as Nick Ruhland found a seem down the left sideline and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. Midway through the second quarter, Orono went on a long drive beginning from its own 25 yard line and marched the field behind a strong running game and timely passing. Noah Arneson scored the go ahead touchdown on a well designed reverse play that caught Holy Angels by surprise. Arneson raced 19 yards untouched into the end zone. Holy Angels put together a late drive and scored with under 30 seconds left in the half to tie the score at 14-14.
Orono would strike first in the second half and it would be Ruhland again. On a sweep to the right side, the Orono offensive line gave Ruhland a seem to get into open space and then it was Ruhland breaking tackles and evading defenders on a 34 yard touchdown run to give Orono a 21-14 lead. Holy Angels answered back on an 80 yard touchdown drive that finished with a one yard score early in the fourth quarter and once again tied the game at 21-21.
The ensuing kickoff changed the momentum back in Orono’s favor for the rest of the night. Ruhland took the kick at his 11 yard line and with tremendous blocking found running room down the sideline for a 39 yard return. This set Orono up with a short field and the Spartan rushing attack went back to work. With Danny Striggow (17 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown) pounding between the tackles and Ruhland (20 carries 190 yards and three touchdowns) working the edges, the Spartans compiled 292 yards rushing for the game. Coach McPherson commented on their play following the game, “Danny & Nick had huge games for us tonight – both are senior captains and stepped up to have their best games of the year against a tough section opponent in Holy Angels.”
Ruhland would get his third touchdown of the night on a 10 yard run to put Orono ahead 28-21 late in the fourth quarter. On the kickoff, the Stars mishandled Jack Kalman’s kick (the sophomore kicker was a perfect 5-5 on extra points for the game) and it went out of bounds at the three yard line. With the Stars needing a scoring drive to stay in the game and the clock winding down, the Orono defense rose to the occasion and on fourth and short, stopped the Stars short. In a game of memorable plays, Coach McPherson talked about this one after the game.
“One of my favorite moments in the game was in the fourth quarter when we were only up by seven points, we had Holy Angels on fourth down and the snow was coming down hard. Our players held them and we got the ball on downs. It is a moment the players and coaches will never forget – a true football memory,” he said.
With the ball back in Orono’s hands, it took only a couple of plays before the offensive line opened another nice hole on the left side and Striggow raced 11 yards for the games final score.
Orono’s offense put up 332 yards for the game and the defense gave up just 189 yards to Holy Angels. The Spartan defense was led by linebacker Joey Tilzer, who was all over the field making plays, and had a team high six tackles. Striggow contributed four huge tackles including two sacks and two tackles for loss. In addition to his offensive explosion, Ruhland added four tackles along with Shea Albrecht with four tackles including one tackle for loss. Coach McPherson summed up the night
“We knew coming into the game it was going to be a dog fight – the game lived up to that expectation. It was back and forth all game – we continued to pound the ball and ended up on top,” McPherson said.