SANDUSKY — A year ago, the Orrville football team won just four games.
That was then, this is now. And the Red Riders are on a roll.
Orrville can win the Division V state championship with a victory at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton at 3 p.m. next Saturday.
The Riders kept their remarkable, record-breaking season alive with a 38-7 state semifinal victory over Liberty Center at Sandusky Perkins High School on Saturday night. Marquael Parks led the way with 211 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Orrville (12-2) will play Johnstown-Monroe (13-1), which defeated Wheelersburg 32-14, in the title game. The Riders’ lone state championship came in their last finals appearance (1998) and they were runners-up in 1983, 1985 and 1994.
Although Orrville coach Doug Davault knew the 2018 Riders would be much improved, racing all the way to the title game exceeded even his expectations.
“We knew our guys were talented, but we didn’t know what kind of work ethic they’d have,” Davault said. “It’s a cliche that I say every week, but we’re getting a little bit better each week and that was the case again today.”
The Riders followed their usual script.
Parks added to his bevy of records by becoming Wayne County’s single-season rushing leader, breaking the mark previously held by Smithville’s Aaron Long (2,435 in 2004). Parks now has 212 carries for 2,590 yards rushing for the season and his 318 points (53 touchdowns) is fifth in the OHSAA unofficial single-season record book with one more game to play.
After a wild start during which both teams lost fumbles, the Riders scored on their final five possessions of the first half to take a 31-7 lead at the break.
Parks scored on three consecutive runs (8, 57 and 35 yards) in the first half, using the spins, sidesteps, cuts and all-out speed that he’s amazed fans with all year.
The Tigers (12-2) tried to fake punt on fourth-and-one from their own 15 early in the first quarter and had that move blow up in their face.
After the Riders’ front line squashed the ball carrier, Parks turned in his first touchdown run. After initially fumbling a wildcat snap, he criss-crossed the field for an 8-yard run that probably covered 30 yards.
Liberty Center scored its only points when Caleb Carpenter carried the ball in on a 4-yard run to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive, which tied the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
But Parks broke free for a 57-yard run on Orrville’s next play to give the Riders a 14-7 lead after the first quarter.
Parks followed with his third touchdown run midway through the third quarter, followed by Logan Domer’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Donoven Hall and Cain Duskey’s 21-yard field goal. Hall had an interception in the end zone to set up Parks’ 35-yard run.
Domer was 9-for-13 passing for 168 yards and Nathen Dombroski caught three passes for 107 yards. Hall added five catches for 55 yards and six carries for 45 yards.
The Riders’ defensive front and linebackers stepped up to hold Liberty Center to just 3.5 yards a carry (45-159) and the Tigers managed only 41 yards passing.
“We just like to step up and make plays,” junior defensive end Ben Amstutz said.
Orrville had two turnovers to start the second half, but Parks’ 4-yard touchdown run with 1:22 left in the third quarter led to a running clock and accounted for the game’s final points.
“It’s a great feeling [setting records], but I’m just ready to play again with my brothers in Week 15. … We want to win it all.”