Orange Football

Orange Middle’s Amir Johnson, Mason Stubbs, Markus Thomas & Owen Phillipps discuss winning OPAC Championship

The Orange Middle School Chargers claimed the Orange Person Athletic Conference championship last week. The Chargers defeated Culbreth 24-6 at Auman Stadium in Hillsborough. 8th grader Owen Phillipps had a huge all-around night for OMS. Playing four different positions, Phillipps finished with 61 yards rushing and 52 yards receiving. Phillipps caught a 52-yard touchdown pass to open the game after Amir Johnson recovered a Culbreth fumble on the opening play from scrimmage. Later Phillippps would play quarterback out of a wildcat formation and helped the Chargers run out the clock. Starting quarterback Mason Stubbs, an 8th-grader, threw a 13-yard touchdown assist to Markus Thomas. Stubbs scored the final touchdown off a 1-yard run on a quarterback sneak. Thomas ran in a 2-point conversion on the point-after to give the Chargers a three-score lead. 7th grader Amir Johnson had a strong all-around game. He recovered a fumble, made two sacks and ran in another 2-point conversion. Orange Middle claimed its first OPAC football championship since 2015 under first-year head coach Jamie Bailey. The Chargers lost only one game all season and defeated Culbreth twice.  In October, Orange Middle came back from a 12-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Cougars 18-12.

Return to Glory–Phillipps, Johnson power Orange Middle past Culbreth 24-6 to win OPAC Football Championship

For the first time in years, it felt like a big football game at Auman Stadium.

On Thursday night, the Orange Middle School Chargers returned to glory after eight years without an Orange Person Athletic Conference championship.

Owen Phillipps caught a touchdown pass and finished with 113 yards from scrimmage, while 7th grader Amir Johnson rushed for a touchdown and recovered a fumble as Orange Middle pulled away from Culbreth 24-6 to win the OPAC Championship.

Quarterback Mason Stubbs created two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing, as the Chargers celebrated its first OPAC title since 2015.

It was a gratifying win for Orange head coach Jamie Bailey, who served as an assistant coach at Orange High for 17 years under head coaches Pat Moser and Van Smith, including a stint as defensive coordinator. Bailey completed his first year as Orange Middle’s head coach with a long-awaited championship.

“It’s a beautiful thing to bring this championship back to Orange County,” Bailey said. “Orange County football needed this.”

Playing 8-minute quarters, Orange Middle used a ground control offense to limit the Cougars to only five plays from scrimmage in the entire second half.

Leading 16-6 at halftime, the Chargers controlled the ball the entire third quarter, converting three 3rd downs and a fourth down. Stubbs threw to Wyatt Moore for a 12-yard gain on a 3rd-and-nine to advance the ball into Culbreth territory. After Jakai Torian gained six yards on a 3rd-and-8, Phillipps took the ball out of a wildcat formation, which Bailey installed last week, and ran around right end for 13 yards on 4th-and-2.

Going into the fourth quarter, on a 3rd-and-12, Phillips gained nine yards. Culbreth jumped offside on 4th-and-3 to move the chains again. Stubbs grinder ahead on a quarterback sneak and just inched over the goal line for a touchdown to conclude a 13-play, 60-yard drive that took 9:46 off the clock. Markus Thomas scored the two-point conversion on a jet sweep.

Johnson recovered two fumbles, including one on the opening play from scrimmage at the Cougars 48-yard line. On 4th-and-14, Brandon Robbins took the ball on a halfback option and chucked it ahead to Phillipps, who dashed into the heart of the end zone. Markus Thomas scored the 2-point conversion to put the Chargers ahead.

After Culbreth scored a touchdown following a Charger fumble, Orange scored a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Stubbs threw to Thomas on a 13-yard pass. Johnson added the 2-point conversion, then ended the half by sacking Culbreth’s quarterback.

The championship wasn’t merely a squad beating other teams from Roxboro, Chapel Hill and Carrboro for a trophy. It marks the climb out of a dark hole for football within northern Orange County that started during the pandemic and, in some respects, continues.

For the first time possibly ever, there was no junior varsity football team at Orange High School this year. Not long ago, Thursday night lights shined brightest at Orange. The junior varsity teams in the mid-2010s went years without losing a game.

In August 2021, after the entire middle school athletic calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year was canceled due to the pandemic, Bailey was riding to an Orange practice one day when he saw roughly 20 players at an Orange Middle workout.

He felt a chill go across his heart.

“It used to be there would be around 100 players at a Stanford practice,” Bailey said.

That’s what led him to start coaching at the middle school level.

“I wanted to get back to that because that’s what going to feed into high school football in Hillsborough,” Bailey said. That’s what we need back in this county.”

This year, the Orange Chargers suited up 45 players for a championship team.

Orange football makes state playoffs for 1st time since 2017, will travel to Southern Alamance

If there was ever a sign of how deep the Central Carolina Conference was in football, it came Saturday morning.

Despite finishing 3-7, the Orange football team is in the 3A State Playoffs for the first time since 2017, when current N.C. State linebacker Payton Wilson did almost everything to get the Panthers to the Big 8 Conference championship.

Despite losing to Eastern Alamance 41-27 in its home finale at Auman Stadium on Friday night, the Panthers actually improved on its RPI rating and drew a #29 seed in the 3A East Region. The Panthers will travel to Hanford Stadium in Graham to face Southern Alamance, the CCC Champions.

On Friday night, the Patriots wrapped up an undefeated run through the league with a 16-14 win over Western Alamance, clinching its first outright conference championship in over 20 years.

Southern Alamance defeated Orange 49-0 on October 13, a night where Patriots running back Jackson Parrish rushed for three touchdowns. Senior Logan Faust ran for 153 yards and two scores.

The Patriots (9-1) moved to 3A over the summer after spending two years as a 4A team in the DAC-VII Conference, where they opposed teams like Chapel Hill, Jordan, Riverside and Hillside.

While Orange hasn’t had a victory since they defeated Cedar Ridge on September 29, they are being rewarded for playing a difficult schedule. Of the Panthers ten opponents, eight made the state playoffs. That includes first-year school Southeast Alamance, who Orange defeated 33-20 on August 18 in the season opener. Vance County, who pulled out a 28-19 win over the Panthers in Henderson on September 1, finished undefeated and won the Northern Lakes Conference.

“I don’t care who we play,” said Orange coach DeVante Pettiford after Orange’s . “I just want to make the playoffs. It’s something that this program needs. I know it’s going to be tough sledding. I know we gotta play teams that are at the top, but we see that every week. The program needs that. Guys around here need to know that we’re good enough to make the playoffs. It’s part of taking steps forward.”

On Friday night, the Eagles prevailed in a penalty-marred matchup more reminiscent of a preseason jamboree than the regular season finale. The two teams combined for 27 penalties amassing 233 yards. The Eagles won despite committing three turnovers, plus a turnover on downs at midfield in the third quarter when a 4th-down conversion was botched because of a fumbled snap.

In his final game at Auman Stadium, senior Tyler Narold caught a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass. The Panthers took a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Hank Nunnery with 6:05 remaining in the first quarter.

The Eagles quickly responded when quarterback Jason Ball threw a 44-yards pass to Charlie Deacon. Running back Joshua Murray carried the ball into the red zone off a 15-yard gain, then scored the Eagles opening touchdown off a six-yard run. Reagan Sawyer’s extra point put the Eagles ahead 7-6.

The Eagles drove to the Orange 16-yard line late in the first quarter, but senior Jayden Medley recovered a fumble. On the next play from scrimmage, Eastern’s Jamari Gibbs picked off a pass from Nunnery.

Murray, who rushed for 104 yards, scored a touchdown from seven yards out early in the second quarter to go ahead 14-6. On the subsequent kickoff, Orange freshman Kayden Bradsher ran it back 85 yards. Only Gibbs stopped Bradsher from scoring.

Brandon Cummings caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Nunnery to put the Panthers within two points. Late in the first half, Eagles junior running back Tyrek Samuels, who finished with 110 yards to go over 1,000 on the season, notched his first touchdown off an 11-yard run.

Samuels would add another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Orange sophomore linebacker Jaylen Starks picked off a pass from Ball and returned it 36 yards. Nate Sorrells, in his final game in Hillsborough, scored a touchdown from three yards out.


Alumni Update: Wilson collects honors after huge start to season

Payton Wilson: In his final year at N.C. State, Wilson continues to rack up honors. For September, Wilson was named the National Linebacker of the Month by the Butkus Foundation. In the opening five games of the year, Wilson averaged 11.5 tackles per game, which led the Atlantic Coast Conference. He led the Wolfpack in tackles in all five games. This week, Wilson was named ACC Linebacker of the Week for the third time this season. Against Marshall on Saturday, Wilson had 14 tackles as the Wolfpack defeated the Thundering Herd 48-41 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Wilson finished with one sack. Wilson also had a fumble recovery for a ten-yard return as the Wolfpack improved to 4-2. Marshall’s top running back came into the game averaging 113 yards per game, but the N.C. State defense held him to 63 yards. Wilson is averaging 11.3 tackles per game, which leads the ACC and is fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. This Saturday night, the Wolfpack will travel to Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham to face #17 Duke. It will be the Wolfpack’s first trip to Wallace Wade Stadium since 2013, when Dave Doeren was in first season as the Wolfpack head coach. The Wolfpack is 1-1 in the ACC.

Bryse Wilson: The Milwaukee Brewers season ended in the National League Wildcard Series when the Arizona Diamondbacks swept the best-of-three series at American Family Field. Wilson’s only appearance was in game one, when he retired Gabriel Moreno to ground out to first base for the final out for Arizona. In his first season with Milwaukee, Wilson had a 6-0 record with a 2.58 ERA in 53 appearances, all out of the bullpen. He had three saves. In 76.2 innings of work, Wilson had 61 strikeouts with 22 walks. The Brewers won the National League Central division championship.

Darius Satterfield: Virginia Union defeated Elizabeth City State 42-20 at Roebuck Stadium in Elizabeth City last Saturday. Satterfield had seven punts for an average of 36.9 yards per boot. His longest punt was 47 yards. One was downed inside the 20-yard line. Another went for a touchback. Elizabeth City State is 1-5 overall, 0-4 in the CIAA. They travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday to face Lincoln University.

Trenton Gill: Last Thursday, the Chicago Bears earned its first win of the season with a 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. Gill averaged 43.7 yards on three punts. His longest was 47 yards. One punt was downed inside the 20-yard line. Gill also held on extra points and field goals for placekicker Cairo Santos. The Bears are 1-4 and will host Minnesota at Solider Field this Sunday.

Braxton Mergenthal: The Division III Hampden-Sydney football team bounced back to defeat Ferrum 48-10 at Everett Stadium in Hampden Sydney, VA on Saturday. Mergenthal had a career-high five tackles as the Tigers improved to 3-2 overall. They’re 1-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Hampden-Sydney will travel to face Averett in Danville, VA on Saturday.

Ivy Garner: The Liberty women’s soccer team played to a scoreless tie against Florida International at FIU Soccer Stadium in Miami on Saturday. Garner, who started at midfielder, had one of six shots on net for the Flames. Overall, Liberty had 12 shots. Garner played 73 minutes. Liberty will travel to El Paso, TX to face UTEP in another Conference USA matchup on Sunday. The Flames are 11-1-1 overall, 2-1-1 in Conference USA.

Emerson Talley: The Lenoir-Rhyne women’s soccer team is now ranked #21 in Division II. On Wednesday, the Bears rolled past Coker 7-0 at Moretz Sports Campus in Hickory. Talley started at midfield and played 45 minutes for Lenoir-Rhyne. On Saturday, the Bears defeated Carson-Newman 3-0 at McCown Field in Jefferson City, TN. Talley started and played 65 minutes for the Bears, who are 10-0-3, 8-0 in the South Atlantic Conference. Lenoir-Rhyne will host Newberry in Hickory on Saturday night.

Lottie Scully: The Binghamton volleyball setter was named the America East Setter of the Week on Tuesday. Last week, Scully tallied 75 assists and 28 digs as Binghamton defeated the University of New Hampshire and Bryant University. On Tuesday, Binghamton defeated Long Island University 3-1 on scores of 22-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18 at NEC Front Row in Brooklyn. Scully had 43 assists and 15 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. She also had three kills and an ace. Binghamton is 10-8 overall, 3-0 in America East. They will face the University of Albany on Saturday.