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Orion, Rockridge set for classic rivalry duel

Orion, Rockridge set for classic rivalry duel

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The opening night for the Three Rivers Conference's Rock Division will be headlined by a matchup worthy of a postseason atmosphere.

In fact, the last time longtime football rivals Orion and Rockridge met on the football field, it was in a playoff game.

Two weeks after the Chargers shut out the Rockets 31-0 to cap a perfect TRAC Rock title run, the teams met in Edgington for the second round of the Class 2A playoffs, with Orion prevailing 21-17.

With both teams off to a 2-0 start and ranked in the state's Top 10 in 2A (Orion seventh, Rockridge ninth), together with it being the Chargers' "Tackle Cancer Night," tonight's 7 p.m. rematch at Charger Field promises to be well worth the price of admission.

"Playing them in Week 9 and Week 11 last year, that adds to the rivalry and what it is," said Orion coach Chip Filler. "We're excited to have them at our place. Keep in mind that it's still only Week 3, but with two state-ranked teams going head-to-head, it's going to be a great night."

While last year's outcomes will no doubt add fuel to the fire for the Rockets, first-year Rockridge coach Steve Disler feels that the strength of the rivalry itself should provide more than enough motivation for his squad.

"Hopefully it helps get them fired up, but it's Orion. They're always a rival; it doesn't necessarily matter about last season," he said. "Any time we play Orion with both of us being unbeaten, it's a huge deal. Two conference teams and two communities close together, it's going to be a big matchup."

Disler believes that close proximity will result in a sizable fan turnout on the Rockridge side of the stadium.

"They have the home-field advantage, but we expect a lot of our people to be there," he said. "Hopefully we get a big crowd that's good and loud, to help keep our energy up."

Likewise, Filler is expecting an electric atmosphere tonight.

"I know they'll be excited to come to our place. It's going to be a fun atmosphere," he stated. "Look for a lot of fireworks."

Both teams have had to work hard for their 2-0 starts.

The Chargers have used fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull out wins over Monmouth-Roseville and Kewanee, with senior quarterback Ryan Jungwirth's one-yard sneak with 17.2 seconds on the clock lifting Orion to a 35-27 victory over the Boilermakers in its home opener.

"A big factor in this game is going to be mistakes," said Jungwirth. "Limiting our mistakes, especially late in the game, will be a huge factor in order to win this one."

The Rockets had to overcome a 24-point deficit in their opener, scoring 29 unanswered points to top Sherrard 37-30 in the teams' first meeting since 20-14. Then in last week's home opener, Rockridge stopped a Monmouth-Roseville conversion attempt in overtime to escape with a 33-32 victory.

"Our guys have proven they know how to keep fighting and win the close ones," said Disler. "We've just got to continue to be disciplined and clean up some of our alignments. Like any week, if you win the battle up front, you put ourself in a pretty good position to win."

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