Hornets stun Liberty Bell with late comeback

Victory nets Hutchinson school career wins record

WINTHROP – Outplayed for three quarters and shorthanded due to injuries, Oroville’s football team bounced back with a big fourth quarter comeback to keep its playoff hopes alive with a 28-27 victory at Liberty Bell on Friday, Oct. 5.

Trailing 27-6 after three quarters, thanks largely to Liberty Bell’s big play ability, the Hornets made critical plays on defense and special teams, and the offense took advantage of its late opportunities to pull off the stunner.

File photo
Oroville football coach Tam Hutchinson notched a school record for career wins with the Hornets’ comeback from a 21-point fourth quarter deficit on Oct. 5.

In addition to giving the Hornets a critical win in the playoff race, the victory gave Oroville coach Tam Hutchinson the school record for career wins with 55, surpassing Rick Guenther’s mark.

“We didn’t play that well until late in the game,” Hutchinson said. “I really liked how we didn’t give up. It was really good for the kids. I think we learned a lot, and I hope things go the right way from here.

“We caught a couple of breaks to get us going, but we did a good job of taking advantage of them.”

As for the school record, “It was bound to happen one of these games,” Hutchinson said. “I wasn’t really paying much attention to it. I’m more concerned about trying to win three of our next four the rest of the way.”

The Hornets scored three touchdowns in a four minute span of the fourth quarter to take the lead with 6:38 left. Tanner Smith, nursing a sore knee, set up one touchdown with a big punt return, then scored what turned into the game winner (after Jose Barbosa’s extra point kick) with on a second big punt return, 45-yards.

Connolly Quick’s 4-yard run capped a four-play, 20-yard drive to pull the Hornets to within 27-13. After a Liberty Bell turnover that gave the Hornets the ball on the 10-yard line, quarterback Luke Kindred ran for a 7-yard score and a 2-point conversion to cut the margin to 27-21.

Liberty Bell made one final drive deep into Oroville territory after the Hornets took the lead, but Oroville’s defense made a goal line stand, stopping Liberty Bell twice inside the one-yard line with three minutes remaining.

The Hornets nursed their one point lead and the clock, but had to punt with 30 seconds left. Kindred’s high, deep punt was muffed by the Mountain Lions and Oroville recovered the miscue to clinch the win.

“Eddie Ocampo was hurt and didn’t play, and Dustin Nigg got hurt during the game,” Hutchinson said. “So our offense was kind of hamstrung. We weren’t firing on all pistons. I give our defense a lot of credit because even though they gave up some big plays, they made the big plays that gave us a chance to win.”

The Hornets scored first on a 5-yard Nigg run to cap a game-opening nine-play, 76-yard drive.

But from there, Liberty Bell got long scoring runs from Austin Watson, Mikey Michael and Emmett Fink to take a 27-6 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Hornets didn’t win the statistical battle as Liberty Bell outrushed Oroville 312-147. Kindred ran for 65 yards on 20 carries and completed two passes for 19 yards, while Nigg ran for 50 yards on 12 carries before his injury.

Smith had three punt returns for 75 yards.

Defensively, Kindred had 11 tackles and two assists, Smith had six tackles and three assists and Logan Mills and Jake Scott each had six tackles.

The Hornets (3-3, 2-1 CWL), tied for second place in the league, need to finish in the top three to earn a state playoff berth and still need to face state-ranked White Swan later this season (though the Cougars were upset by Kittitas on Friday). The victory over Liberty Bell (2-3, 2-1) was crucial to the Hornets’ playoff chances.

Oroville will shoot for its first home victory of the season on Friday, Oct. 12, against Lake Roosevelt, which just notched its first victory Friday with a win over Manson.

“It’s a big game,” Hutchinson said. “We’re looking forward to this one a lot, because we really want to get a win at home. We’re just concentrating on winning the games that we know we can, hope to get some more confidence and play well at White Swan in a couple weeks.”