Turnover bug plagues Trojans in 56-8 loss to Orion

Mendota wide receiver Braiden Freeman lowers his head and tries to power his way through the tackle attempt of Orion’s Duncan Adamson (No. 9) and Nolan Buchen (No. 17) on Sept. 1 at the MHS field. (Reporter photo)

MENDOTA - Good ball security was a positive takeaway for Mendota in its season-opening football game against Morrison. The same can’t be said about its week two matchup with Orion.

The turnover bug hit the Trojans in a big way as they gave it up to Orion five times and the Chargers took full advantage on their way to a 56-8 win in a Three Rivers Conference crossover game on Sept. 1 at the MHS field.

Mendota quarterback Justin Randolph was intercepted three times, the Trojans lost two fumbles and they had a punt blocked. One of the picks and one of the fumbles was returned for a touchdown by Orion, and the blocked punt led to another Charger score.

Meanwhile, the Chargers played near error-free football, throwing one inconsequential interception and possessing a stout defense that held the Trojans to under 100 yards until the fourth quarter when Mendota put together its only scoring drive.

In a similarity to the first game of the season, like Morrison, the Chargers were able to eclipse the 40-point mark in the first half, resulting in a running clock for the second half.

After each team exchanged punts on their first offensive possessions of the night, Orion got the scoring started when Kaden Edmunds capped off a four-play, 54-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run at the 8:21 mark of the first quarter. The extra-point kick was blocked.

Mendota’s offense stalled on its ensuing possession and was set to punt the ball back to the Chargers when Gabriel Vallejo took a direct snap from center and bulled his way up the middle for what seemed like a first down, but Vallejo fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Orion at its own 42.

The Trojans quickly got the ball back when a tipped pass attempt by Orion was snatched out of the air by Rhett Watson at the Mendota 37-yard line, but the Trojans couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and dropped into punt formation on fourth down. On this punt attempt, a Charger was able to break through the line and get a hand on Braiden Freeman’s boot, and Orion’s Duncan Adamson pounced on the ball at the Mendota 23-yard line.

The Trojan defense held Orion to no gain on its first three plays, but on fourth-and-10, quarterback Kale Filler dropped a perfect pass into the arms of Owen Voorhees, who just squeezed in over the goal line before going out of bounds for a 23-yard TD with 2:22 left in the first. Filler connected with Aiden Fisher on the two-point conversion pass.

The Chargers managed to tack on one more score before the conclusion of the opening stanza when Maddux Anderson swiped a Randolph pass and returned it 29 yards for a score. Anderson added the two-point run for a 22-0 Orion lead.

The Chargers intercepted two more passes in the second quarter, converting the second one into a touchdown. A Nolan Buchen pick-off gave Orion the ball at the Trojans’ 45-yard line, and moments later, Filler hooked up with Caiden Mielke on a 16-yard touchdown strike with 6:39 left before half. Orion’s two-point pass attempt was incomplete.

On Mendota’s ensuing possession, it attempted to convert a fourth-and-two play from inside its own territory, but Randolph was sacked for a 16-yard loss back to the 25-yard line.

When the Chargers took over, they also went for it on fourth down and were successful, turning a fourth-and-five from the 20 into a touchdown pass from Filler to Maddux Arnold to build Orion’s lead to 34-0.

The Chargers reached the 40-point mark before the conclusion of the half on a Filler-to-Jake Bainbridge 7-yard touchdown strike with 19 seconds left. Buchen gathered in a two-point aerial from Filler to make it 42-0. The big play during the 66-yard drive was a 36-yard pass completion from Filler to Mielke on a fourth-and-10 play that gave Orion the ball at the Mendota 7.

The Chargers added two more scores in the third quarter. Fisher ran for a 30-yard touchdown followed by an Anderson kick, and then Anderson scooped up a Mendota fumble and returned it 34 yards to the end zone with 3:29 left in the period. Anderson kicked the extra point.

The Trojans got their first touchdown of the season with 8:23 to go in the fourth when Wyatt Ossman ran in from 5 yards out to complete a 58-yard drive. Randolph connected with Ossman for the two-point conversion.

Mendota (0-2) finished the contest with 150 yards as Ossman rushed for 48 and Randolph threw for 82. Keegan Beetz hauled in three passes for 44 yards. Orion (2-0) had 294 total yards - 160 on the ground and 134 in the air.