Football: Orange’s defense still No. 1

ewarnock@newsobserver.comNovember 5, 2013 

Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Shawn Stankavage (10) scores the first touchdown Friday for the Crusaders.

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Even after giving up a season-high 28 points to a talented Cardinal Gibbons team, undefeated Orange still has the best scoring defense in central North Carolina.

Orange has given up an average of 8.3 points to 10 opponents. The Crusaders’ performance in the 41-28 loss to Orange was the best of any Orange opponents so far.

Gibbons’ success could be traced directly to the remarkable performance of quarterback Shawn Stankavage, a slender but tough-as-nails senior who completed 31 of 44 passes for 416 yards, and his favorite target, Dante DiMaggio.

DiMaggio caught 14 passes for 262 yards, including touchdowns of 56 and 40 yards.

Most of that came in the first half, before Orange coach Pat Moser decided he better start matching his fastest defensive backs with DiMaggio, who he called “phenomenal.”

The strategy worked. Orange shut out Cardinal Gibbons in the second half.

“The defense was shocked by Shawn Stankavage in the first half,” Moser said. “He is something else. I’m going to make sure he crosses the stage at graduation.”

The quarterbacks’ conference

The Big-8 Conference has the top three quarterbacks in the state – Southern Durham’s Kendal Hinton, Gibbons’ Stankavage, and Northwood’s Ti Pinnix – according to Maxpreps.com.

Hinton has accounted for 321 yards a game, 252 of that passing. Stankavage, who threw for two TDs and ran in two himself Friday, accounts of 316 yards a game, 236 passing. Pinnix’s numbers dropped some with his relatively few 172 yards against Chapel Hill last week. But he still averages 280 total yards a game, 297 passing.

Those numbers don’t credit Orange’s Garrett Cloer who keeps winning while racking up the area’s top efficiency rating ( 211.1), which is 30 points higher than anyone else.

QB ratings can be hard to decode, but this is clear: Cloer has thrown 12 TD passes and just one interception.

Orange coach Moser is aware of the league’s quarterbacks. Having gotten the Panthers (10-0, 6-0 conference) past Cardinal Gibbons (7-3, 4-2), he now has to prepare them to face Hinton in Friday’s showdown at Southern Durham (8-2, 6-0).

“They have a quarterback that’s hard to tackle and wide receivers that can get open,” he said. “It will be a hard contest for us.”

Filling in ...

Injuries have hurt Carrboro (4-6, 1-3 Mid-State) this season, forcing multiple, unexpected changes in the lineup.

With Trai Sharp out, Marlin Johnson, one of the best wide receivers in the state, has filled in at running back. He carried the ball 18 times last week for 148 yards on the ground. Johnson ran 64 yards for one touchdown and scored another on a 6-yard pass from Campbell Isom in Carrboro’s 41-13 loss to Graham.

... And stepping up

East Chapel Hill (2-8, 1-3 PAC-6) is in similar straits as Carrboro. The Wildcats have been more than decimated, by injuries that included almost the entire offensive and defensive lines at times this season.

Two weeks ago, the Wildcats pressed sophomore Sean Moore into duty as starting quarterback. Last Friday, East turned to several players to fill in after reliable running back and linebacker Colby Owens left with a sore shoulder against Hillside. Jeremy Hubbard rushed 13 times for 18 hard-fought yards, and East basketball players Arkavious Parks and Ty Woodard both got chances to carry the ball.

Coach Jon Sherman noted freshman Jon Johnson, a JV player until three weeks ago, filled in at inside linebacker against Northern Durham, and moved to outside linebacker for the first time last Friday.

“He played a heckuva game for us,” Sherman said. “He stuck his nose right in there and did everything we asked him to do.”

Warnock: 919-932-8743 or ewarnock@newsobserver.com

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