Last fall, Orange’s football team qualified for the state playoffs for just the second time in school history and the first since the 1988 team reached the state Final Four.
The excitement of that feat didn’t die down after the Lions fell to Bellevue in the first round. In fact, reaching the post-season only served to inspire this year’s team to work even harder to make a repeat appearance in Week 11 and beyond.
With a 39-9 win over St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday, the Lions are 3-0 for the first time since 2015.
“I think a lot,” said Adam Bechlem when asked how much last year’s success has driven the 2018 squad. “Every year has been a growth year and building year in the 10 years I’ve been here. We haven’t taken any steps back and that’s a cool thing. The kids think about that and they know that. We did say that at the end of the game on Friday, there were a couple graduates there from last year’s team and we said, ‘Ha, we’re better than you.’ It was a good joke but that’s the idea, to continue to improve.”
Orange’s success isn’t due to any single individual. The Lions have played as a team and the results speak for themselves.
The Lions average 34 points per game while allowing just 14.67.
“We have to play as a team,” Bechlem said. “We don’t have superstars all over the place so our only option is to play together and we have to rely on each other to do their jobs.”
Senior quarterback Sean Borgman has been effective in guiding the Orange offense.
Through three games, he has thrown for 564 yards and six touchdowns to just one interception. He also has rushed for five scores.
“Sean Borgman has done a fantastic job,” Bechlem said. “He’s on point. He’s a very intelligent kid, he has a 4.5 GPA, and he works hard at everything he does and you see it in the games for sure. He’s been very consistent.”
The key for Borgman has been playing within the system and not trying to force the ball downfield.
“Here’s a number I like, he’s only turned the ball over one time,” Bechlem said. “That’s really important and that was a ping pong ball. It was tipped at the line of scrimmage and ping-ponged around a couple of times. He’s been very safe with the ball and he moves our offense up and down the field. He gives all the skill players a chance to do something with it and when we have to rely on Sean to carry the ball he does a great job with it. He’s our leading rusher and scorer at the moment, not necessarily by design but because of what the game necessitated.”
Marvin Davies and Armon Frey also have played consistently thus far.
Davies has hauled in six passes for 172 yards and two scores while Frey has caught nine passes for 251 yards and a touchdown.
“Armon Frey on offense is a senior who played some defense for us each of the last two years and had one catch going into this year. He already has some pretty big receptions for us and a couple TDs. He’s stepping up to the challenge,” Bechlem said. “Marvin Davies had a great year as a sophomore and he’s been really explosive thus far as a junior.”
Diante White ran for 134 yards and two scores on Friday.
Of course, much of the offense’s success can be attributed to a talented and experienced offensive line.
“On offense, we have an experienced group with four of the five starters back from last year. They definitely have some confidence from that,” Bechlem said. “In our Streetsboro game, we did not outplay them up front. We got outplayed and still found a way to win, so they’re tough as well.”
The defensive line was short on experience coming into the season but that group has jelled and is preventing opposing offenses from finding their rhythm.
“Defensively, we have some new players in the mix on the defensive line but we’ve done a really nice job of holding our own and stopping the run,” Bechlem said. “A couple times, Streetsboro had some short fields and they were able to get the ball in the end zone, but for the most part, we’ve taken care of what we’ve needed to up front.”
When it comes to Noah Klubnik, good things come in small packages. The 5-foot-6, 150-pound senior middle linebacker has played his role well.
“We’ve seen solid play out of Noah Klubnik,” Bechlem said. “He’s our returner on defense at linebacker. He shoots the gaps and gets in there for us. He’s on some of the ball carriers before they know it. He just really has a nose for the ball and understands schemes and flow and gets himself into a great position.”
As the wins continue to mount, the Lions aren’t taking anything for granted.
They’re focused on one game at a time and for good reason.
Orange hosts Grand Valley on Friday. The Mustangs enter the game 3-0 having won 21 straight regular season games and 28 of their last 29 regular season contests.
“We’re a team that our only chance to be successful is to play together and have everyone do their individual jobs. We’ve done that so far after three games but we’re going to be tested in Week 4, no doubt,” Bechlem said. “They play hard and the play fast and they’ll hit you right in the mouth if you don’t prepare for them. Our boys know that and they know the challenge that is ahead of them. They also know that the good stuff that can come out of beating a team like this and playing a game like this. There’s no looking ahead. We’ve got one focus and that’s on this Friday and getting ready for Grand Valley.”