CREEDMOOR–90 minutes before kickoff for Orange High’s season opener on Friday night, the team retreated to the bus due to an oncoming thunderstorm.
After 75 minutes of unrelenting rain, the Panthers finally emerged from shelter to start warmups against South Granville, but apparently the offense was left behind on the bus.
Playing ten new starters in its second season opener in five months, the Orange offense put up a measly 17 yards total offense on a night where the execution for both teams was as sloppy as the weather. South Granville senior running back Micah Wilkerson, who came into the game with 3,276 career rushing yards, ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings pulled away from Orange 20-2 at Viking Stadium.
It was Wilkerson’s 16th career 100-yard game.
Orange’s anemic offense was eerily reminiscent of its pandemic-induced season-opener against Southern Durham in early March, which featured one misguided shotgun snap after another, leading to zero points and just 46 yards of total offense.
Kickoff was delayed by 30 minutes because of a rainstorm. Barely three minutes into the game, there was a 45-minute lightning delay, leading to an interminable night where spectators dealt with several rainstorms as both offenses struggled to hold onto the ball amidst the wet turf.
“We’re not a big, physically imposing team,” said Orange Coach Van Smith. “Look at our roster and our size versus those guys. They’re big and strong. They won this game on the front line on both sides of the ball, hands down.”
The only positive for the Panthers came from its defense. Starting eight seniors, the Panthers held South Granville to two first downs in the opening half. Orange forced two fumbles against Vikings junior quarterback Khawan Bobbitt. The first was created by senior Connor Ray and recovered by Brendon Worsham. Early in the second quarter, junior linebacker Jabari Albright pounced on a loose ball coughed up by Wilkerson.
On Orange’s second play from scrimmage, Viking defensive tackle Divon Dabney pounced on an errant toss to a running back at the Panther 14-yard line. Two plays later, Bobbitt scored on an option keeper from 13-yards, the 24th rushing touchdown of his career. Bobbitt walked into the right corner of the end zone on the 2-point attempt.
Orange’s only drive that gained traction all night came after the lightning delay on its second series. Omarion Lewis, who was out of action last spring, bolted out for a 20-yard gain, which proved to be the Panthers’ longest play from scrimmage. Orange would ultimately drive to the South Granville 28-yard line, but the series stalled after consecutive incomplete passes.
Two plays later, Worsham recovered Bobbitt’s fumble at the South Granville 22-yard line. With a chance to tie the game, Orange instead went relentlessly backwards with consecutive fumbles and two penalties. They wound up punting from midfield.
Late in the first half, Orange’s defense got a big stop from Nate Hecht and Jackson Wood, which led to Worsham returning a punt inside Viking territory. Two plays later, Malachi Batchelor recovered another Orange fumble.
Orange was held to three first downs.
After a quiet half from Wilkerson, he immediately established his presence to start the second half with a 24-yard run on the second play from scrimmage. On a 3rd-and-2, Wilkerson rumbled 35 yards inside the Orange 5-yard line, then dove into the end zone two plays later.
Running the triple option, South Granville established an offensive rhythm in the second half. The Vikings had 20 plays from scrimmage in the third quarter. Orange had three.
The Vikings ended a 16-play, 81-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Wilkerson early in the fourth quarter.
Orange’s Kameron Harshaw and Connor Ray tackled Wilkerson in the end zone for a safety to prevent the Panthers from getting shut out.
“The speed of Friday night is much faster than Thursday night,” Smith said. “Your first game or two on varsity is a wake-up call. You need to get used to the speed of that level. We didn’t have as many scrimmages as we wanted. Not to make excuses, but some of our guys could have gotten used to what it’s like on Friday night to go against bigger and faster guys. It’s tough for anybody.”
SOUTH GRANVILLE 20, ORANGE 2
SG–Khawan Bobbitt 13 run (Bobbitt run)
SG–Micah Wilkerson 2 run (run failed)
SG–Wilkerson 5 run (kicked failed)
OR-Safety, Wilkerson tackled in end zone.
RUSHING: ORANGE 33-9 (Omarion Lewis 13-39, Nathan Sorrells 5-10, Jake Wimsatt 6-9, Wynston Brown 2-(-6), Ty Weaver 1-(-7), team 6-(-36)
SOUTH GRANVILLE: 44-160 (Wilkerson 23-117 2 TD, Bobbitt 11-37 TD, Traevon White 5-12, Sha’king Allah 3-(-2), Charlie Vestal 2-(-4)
PASSING-ORANGE 2-4 6 yards (Brown 1-3 2 yards, Weaver 1-1 4 yards)
SOUTH GRANVILLE (Bobbitt 1-4 6 yards)
RECEIVING: (ORANGE: Wimsatt 1-4, Sorrells 1-2)
South Granville (Wilkerson 1-6)