Orange High School is buzzing.
Leading into the Astley Cup, sport is at the forefront of the mind of every teacher and student at the school, and their form in one of the sports that matter most is scintillating.
The school's open boys' football side has ticked off wins against Bathurst and Dubbo in the past few weeks of the Western Combined High School grand final last week, culminating in a 2-0 win over the latter.
That win catapulted the side into the top 16 in the state, with coach David Bell amazed at how much momentum the side has built up.
The first-year coach at OHS said the outfit had put in an incredible amount of work to its bids, and lauded the efforts of captain Mitch Cooper and "superstar" goalkeeper Jordy Bruce, who was instrumental in the win in Dubbo last week.
A frantic first half at Hans Claven Oval left both side with genuine chances in front of goal, with the defence of Tom Lloyd, Hugh Middleton, Tyler Moes, and Myles Palmer all "fighting tooth and nail" to prevent the dangerous Dubbo forwards from finding the back of the net.
There's so much confidence and self-belief in this side.OHS football coach David Bell
However, it was Bruce with some astronomical saves, sweeping work as an extra defender and creative passing over the top - which set up OHS' first goal to Rowan Edwards in the second half - who was the school's best player on the day.
"He was an absolute giant in goals, he undoubtedly kept us in it," Bell said.
"Throughout the comp he has only conceded one goal which is an amazing feat that deserves recognition."
Nil-all at halftime led to a reshuffle before Edwards struck, and the side nabbed a second just four minutes later though Charlie Huggett to help slam on the jets for OHS to push to the eventual final margin and score an "unreal" win.
"We were really stoked to win ... it was bloody tough," Bell said.
"There's so much confidence and self-belief in this side."
The win puts OHS into the top-16 in the state, with a Western Sydney side due to travel to Orange in the coming weeks for a top-eight spot.
While Bell said the Sydney sides are all tough nuts to crack, he said the home-ground advantage couldn't be understated.
"With a Sydney side coming here it'll be freezing cold, a bit damp underfoot, it won't be pleasant conditions and you never know," he said.
"They could go all the way."
Bell is a first-year coach, but has been told how important football is to the looming Astley Cup, which kicks off next week in Bathurst.
Football often proves a kind of 'bellweather sport' in the Astley Cup, with the winning school often taking home the trophy with significant help from winning on the pitch.
Having taken down both Bathurst and Dubbo in the CHS finals - with OHS defeating Bathurst in the semi-final, Bell is hopeful his side can replicate the wins in the 96-year-old competition, which will be his first at the school.
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