SHERRARD -- Its back to the wall with four losses, the playoffs essentially started Friday evening for the Orion football team.
One Charger in particular, senior running back Dylan Schultz, did his part to ensure his team's prospects for extending its season would not end on Clifford King Field against West Central Conference rival Sherrard.
Carrying the ball 32 times, Schultz racked up 258 yards. He scored three touchdowns on the ground to go with a receiving touchdown and a defensive score as the Chargers stayed in the postseason picture with a 37-22 victory, handing Sherrard its fourth loss.
"We knew this was basically a postseason game,'' said Schultz, "but we just had to take care of our business, do our work and try to get the win. It's all about getting the win, and with Sherrard, it's a good rivalry. We always want to beat the purple and gold, and we got the job done.''
With Pittsfield-Griggsville-Perry (3-4) coming to Charger Field next Saturday, followed by winless Princeton, Friday's victory went a long way toward bolstering Orion's (3-4, 3-3 WCC) playoff hopes.
"We needed this,'' said Orion coach Chip Filler. "Our backs were against the wall; we knew we had to come away with a win, and the guys did it. In my post-game interview last week (after a 46-27 loss to Illini West), I said if I had to bet on any group of kids, I'd bet on this group. But, there's still a long way to go.''
As for Sherrard (3-4, 2-4 WCC), the Tigers are not yet done as far as a postseason berth is concerned, but the road goes uphill from here, as 6-1 Illini West comes calling.
"We're going to see what we're made of, what kind of competitors we are,'' said Sherrard coach Brett Lee. "Illini West is tough, but we play in a conference where anybody can beat anyone on any given night.''
Schultz began his dominating evening with a big special-teams play. After Sherrard went three-and-out on its first series, Schultz blocked Lucas Boraas's punt and Jacob Edmunds fell on the ball at the Tiger 4-yard line. Two plays later, Schultz scored his first touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0.
However, the Tigers didn't wait long to come up with an answer, as Dwight Swartz took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 90 yards to the end zone. On the ensuing conversion, the snap was fumbled, but kicker Nathan Fay recovered, scrambled and threw to Boraas to put the hosts up 8-7.
Any momentum Sherrard generated with that quick strike was soon dispelled as Schultz capped a three-play, 72-yard drive with a 64-yard scoring romp to give Orion a 14-8 lead. The Tigers then drove deep into Charger territory, with a 36-yard Jake Kissner run putting them in business, but on a fourth-and-eight from the Orion 18-yard line, quarterback Clayton Bjustrom's pass fell incomplete.
"I was happy with the way we responded (after Orion's first score), but those momentum swings got to translate to the defensive side as well,'' said Lee.
Kissner and Boraas combined for 125 rushing yards, but Bjustrom completed just nine of 30 passes for 123 yards and four interceptions.
"We responded well with those defensive stops,'' said Schultz. "Those were very key at the beginning of the game. You've got to start quick and finish strong.''
Orion made those turnovers hurt when quarterback Blake Matson (5 of 10, 72 yards) connected with Schultz on a 22-yard scoring toss with 57 seconds left in the opening period, and Mikey Dierikx booted his third straight extra point to put the Chargers up 21-8 after a wild first quarter.
Sherrard kept its composure and mounted another drive into Orion territory, but on a fourth-and-15 from the Chargers' 27, Joe DeVolder intercepted Bjustrom. Schultz then tore off an 84-yard TD run on the first play to stretch Orion's lead to 27-8. The Tigers stopped the bleeding when Boraas's five-yard TD run with 3:32 left before halftime closed the gap to 27-15, but could get no closer in the second half.
"Those were big possessions,'' Lee said. "In a game where you know you've got to stay within a score or two, those are big turning points. That's kind of been the story for us the last few weeks. If we're to get over the hump, we've got to convert those opportunities.''
Today is Monday, April 21, the 111th day of 2014. There are 254 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The female sex seems to have gone crazy on the subject of dry goods. When high prices keep them from increasing their wardrobes, they turn to stealing. Yard goods, hats, shoes and other items are being picked up and carried home. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Members of Everts Commandery No. 18, Knights Templar, under Commander H.C. Cleaveland, marched from the Masonic Temple to Trinity Episcopal Church for their annual Easter services. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Nate Hultgren pitched the Augustana College baseball team to a 10-3 victory over Carthage, striking out 11 men and allowing only four hits. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Marvel Leonhardi, a Rock Island High School senior, was the winner of an essay contest on advertising sponsored by The Argus and Advertising Age, a national advertising publication. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The Augustana College band drew a crowd of 1,200 people for its annual home concert in Centennial Hall. The size of the crowd was indicative of the fact the band is rapidly approaching the stature of the Augustana Choir. 1989 -- 25 years ago: A benefit to raise money for extracurricular activities in the Rock Island Milan School District will be April 27 at the Quad City Downs harness race track. People buying $17.50 tickets to the second annual "Night at the Quad City Downs" will be entitled to an evening of harness racing and dinner.