By Lucas Rains
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – It’s almost unheard of for a freshman to play on a varsity football team – especially at quarterback.
But Orchard View’s Jayden Day made his first impressive start at quarterback on Thursday, leading the host Cardinals to a thrilling 22-16 win over Montague.
“It feels amazing right now,” Orchard View head coach Joe Tanis said. “All of these guys have worked so hard for the last 26 months and now we’re seeing the fruition of our hard work. We’ve been through a lot of tough times, and to come out and beat a great program is a good deal for us.”
Day came up big for the Cardinals, especially late in the game with an 18-yard, game-winning TD pass to Mike Parker with four seconds left. Day finished 10-for-20 passing for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
“The kid was making checks and audibles in the game and just making plays,” Tanis said. “He’s phenomenal and I can’t praise the kid enough. Everything that I can say about him as a football player is great, but who he is as a person and the way he approaches life is what makes him special.”
Both teams had to shake the rust off in their first game of the season and it showed early on. Orchard View committed seven first-half penalties and Montague racked up three. The penalties made for a slow-paced and low-scoring first half.
“Game ones are weird, they always are,” Montague head coach Pat Collins said. “It was a great game. I thought we were two evenly-matched teams. We had some things that went well, some things that didn’t go well. Some things that happened in the game were weird and we caught the wrong end of it.”
Both offenses sputtered through the first quarter and were unable to score.
Orchard View started on Montague’s 40-yard line at the end of the first and into the second quarter. Day accounted for most of the offense on the drive, both through the air and with his feet.
On first-and-goal, Day kept the ball on a veer option around the outside and went untouched into the end zone. Day completed the two-point conversion pass to Devin Pascavage to put the Cardinals up 8-0 with 6:46 left in the first half.
“Installing a new offense, there’s going to be some growing pains and we knew that coming into it,” Tanis said.
Orchard View kicked off and recovered a fumble on the return, getting the ball right back after scoring. On the Cardinals’ first play after catching the break, the gave it right back to the Wildcats when Day threw an interception to Montague defender Austin Fillmore. Montague was unable to take advantage of the turnover and turned the ball over on downs.t
With just 1:13 left in the first half, Montague got the ball on Orchard View’s 33-yard line. On fourth down, quarterback Jacob Buchberger lofted a fade to the back of the end zone. There was some contact and the ref threw the flag for pass interference. Two plays later, Buchberger put the Wildcats on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run with just 10 seconds left.
The score was 8-6 in favor of Orchard View at halftime.
The Cardinals got the ball to start the second half, but on their second play of the drive, running back Bobby Clanton fumbled and the Wildcats finally cashed in on a mistake.
Montague began the drive on Orchard View’s 49-yard line and had success through the air for the first time in the contest. On third-and-seven, Buchberger completed a 16-yard pass to Drake Roesler. Again on third-and-long, Buchberger found Eddie Caviedes for eight yards, still two yards short of the first.
Brayman carried on fourth down for eight yards, giving the Wildcats a first down. Brayman capped the drive off with a 6-yard run right up the middle for a touchdown. Buchberger ran in the two-point conversion, giving the Wildcats a 14-8 lead with 7:36 left in the third quarter.
Orchard View answered right back with a scoring drive of its own, starting near midfield. The Cardinals ran the ball effectively to begin the drive and then on fourth-and-seven, caught a break on a questionable pass interference call. Day found Matias Keyes for a 15-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes left in the third. The Cardinals led 16-14.
On Orchard View’s next drive, it got pinned near its own end zone and was forced to punt. The snap flew up and out of the end zone for a safety, tying the game up at 16-16 to begin the fourth quarter.
Both teams were quiet through the majority of the fourth quarter until Montague drove the field and put itself in position for a 19-yard field goal try with just over three minutes left. Caviedes’ kick missed wide and the game remained tied.
After a Montague three-and-out, Orchard View got the ball back on its own 46 with only 30 seconds to go.
In stepped Day to lead the Cardinals on an improbable game-winning drive.
On second down, Day ran a beautifully-executed play-action pass and found Kris Wells for a 26-yard gain, putting the ball at the 18-yard line. On second down, Day scrambled out to the right and threw a jump ball to the back of the end zone, which fell into the arms of wide receiver Parker for an 18-yard touchdown pass with just four seconds left. Orchard View would go on to win by the final of 22-16.
Clanton led the Cardinals’ rushing attack with 55 yards on 11 carries. Parker added 35 yards on his 7 carries and Day ran for 24. Parker was the team’s leading receiver, hauling in four passes for 31 yards.
Buchberger finished 8-for-15 through the air with 91 yards passing. He also carried the ball 18 times for 54 yards, scoring both of Montague’s touchdowns. Brayman gained 69 yards on 19 carries. Roesler hauled in four passes for 27 yards for the Wildcats.
Up next for Orchard View is Manistee on the road next Friday. Montague will travel to Oakridge.
“This game doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take care of business next week,” Tanis said. “We’ve got some things we can work on like keeping our composure on defense. We’re still a young team, but we’re experienced. Our ceiling is very high for the rest of this year.”