CLAYTON — Cleveland and Orange got together for a good old-fashioned offensive shootout in the second round of the Class 3AA playoffs Friday night.
In the end, Orange simply had too many weapons, outscoring Cleveland 59-50 to advance to a third-round meeting at Southern Durham.
“I kept yelling at the defensive coordinator and he said, ‘Coach we are making adjustments and changes. They are just that good.’ We just had to outscore them,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “We just couldn’t stop them. We were lucky to outscore them. We’ve got great kids, very skilled kids at those positions (running back and quarterback). They packed the box, so we had to throw. And (quarterback) Garrett Cloer was on.”
Cloer, a junior, finished 12-for-22 passing for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Cloer entered the game with 2,098 yards passing and 32 touchdowns.
Wingbacks Tay Jones and Patrick Pettiford both had big-play touchdowns out of the Panthers’ double wing offense.
Jones broke off a 68-yard touchdown run on Orange’s first play from scrimmage and also 69- and 51-yard TD runs in the second half. He finished with 247 yards on 13 carries. Pettiford had a 50-yard TD run on Orange’s first play from scrimmage in the second half and finished with 74 yards on nine carries.
Senior running back Isaac Martin churned his way to 268 yards on 40 carries and scored three touchdowns for Cleveland.
Cleveland, down 45-28 in the second half, made a furious rally – scoring 14 straight points to pull within 45-42.
The Rams to a 3-yard TD run from quarterback Aaron Farmer to make it 45-35 and, after forcing the first Orange punt of the game, got a second 3-yard score from Farmer to pull with 45-42 with 8:4Farmer to pull with 45-42 with 8:40 left in the game.
The Rams, who won the Two Rivers 3A title and finished 9-4, recovered an onside kick. But a potential go-ahead drive ended with an interception in the end zone by Orange’s Collin Pope.
Cloer hit Atrell Stewart for a 47-yard touchdown pass and the Panthers (12-1) were up 51-42 after the point-after kick was blocked.
Cleveland wasn’t done yet, however, pulling within 51-50 with 2:02 remaining on a 3-yard touchdown run by Martin and a 2-point conversion run by Martin.
The Panthers recovered the onside kick and Jones bolted 51 yards on the next play to seal it.
“We knew going in that Orange had a great program,” Cleveland coach Marc Morris said. “We knew our kids were going to battle and compete. I don’t think anybody didn’t get their money’s worth tonight.
“That was just two good teams battling it out. Unfortunately, one of us had to be on the short end of the stick and it was us tonight.”
With Friday’s win, Orange earned a return trip to Southern Durham for a third round game. Southern handed the Panthers their only loss this year, 55-41, in a regular-season game Nov. 8.