Note: This story was last updated at 1:40 p.m.
Senior running back T.J. Allison scored two more touchdowns for Oak Ridge, and the Wildcats had their second shutout of the season in a 24-0 win over McMinn County at home on Thursday.
Oak Ridge junior receiver Tee Higgins, who did not score a touchdown last week for the first time this season, added another to his total on Thursday. With Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis watching from the sidelines, Higgins also had a long punt return that set up a touchdown and an interception on a long throw by McMinn County sophomore quarterback Bradley Hayes.
Senior running back D.J. Kimpson generated almost all of the offense for the Cherokees. He ran for 159 yards on 38 carries. That was more than three-quarters of the Cherokees’ total offense of 203 yards. Kimpson gained 109 yards in the first half alone. Hayes only threw the ball six times, and he had two completions and two interceptions.
Higgins (6 catches, 98 yards) and Allison (20 carries, 96 yards) are now tied as the leading scorers for the Wildcats, with 11 touchdowns each.
Allison picked up four of his touchdowns in a 56-14 win at Karns last week, when Oak Ridge (7-1, 3-1 Region 3-5A) rushed for 514 yards. He added one on the ground and one through the air this week.
Oak Ridge’s other shutout this season was in a 41-0 win at Anderson County in a weather-delayed game that started on Friday, September 11, and resumed on Monday, September 14.
This week’s game against McMinn County (3-3, 2-1 Region 4-Class 5A) had also been affected by weather. It was moved to Thursday because of thunderstorms forecast for Friday and Friday night.
Oak Ridge finished with 327 total yards offense, with 205 rushing and 122 passing. Senior quarterback Logan Fadnek, who had one attempt, threw one interception, but the Cherokees were not able to convert it into a score.
The Wildcats picked off Hayes twice, and they converted the second interception into their final score, a 31-yard field goal by junior kicker Noah Calhoun.
Higgins, who has been playing more on defense and special teams, picked off the first pass early in the fourth quarter near the Oak Ridge 24, and junior linebacker Kyndall Clark picked off the second late in the game on a third-and-long for McMinn County. It’s the third interception for Clark, who came into the game as the team’s leading tackler this year, in three weeks.
“For the last three weeks, I have visualized my interceptions before the game,” Clark said.
Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said the Wildcats were sluggish in the first half but executed better in the second.
“We got in a rhythm in the second half,” he said. “I thought we played better in the second half all the way around on both sides of the ball.”
The Thursday night game got off to a slow start. Oak Ridge had one possession in the first quarter, and neither team scored, although the Wildcats missed a 35-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Brandon Nickle. It went wide to the left.
The Wildcats had some big third-and-long stops against the Cherokees, including Clark’s interception late in the fourth quarter, a sack for a loss by Clark early in the second, and a tackle for a loss by sophomore lineman Jack Borchers midway through the second. They finished with four sacks, including two by senior defensive end Alex Alcorn, and senior linebacker Adam Manookian had five tackles and six assists.
Oak Ridge scored first on a three-play, 17-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Allison, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 2:38 remaining in the first half. That score was set up by the long punt return by Higgins to the McMinn County 17.
Oak Ridge scored again on its first possession of the second half, this time on a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback Jordan Dunbar to Higgins, who leaped high to catch the football over a McMinn County defender in the left side of the end zone. After the extra point, Oak Ridge led 14-0 at 8:19 in the third quarter.
Allison scored his second touchdown on a short three-play drive that started at the McMinn County 10 after the Wildcats stopped a fake punt attempt by the Cherokees. Allison powered into the right corner of the end zone on a dive past two Cherokees, giving Oak Ridge a 21-0 lead with 4:24 remaining.
Clark intercepted Hayes on the next possession for McMinn County, and Calhoun added the final score for Oak Ridge.
Allison said the Wildcats had a motivational talk at halftime, and the defense did an excellent job against Kimpson, figuring out how to stop a great running back who likes to run outside.
“He got tired in the second half, and we stopped him in the second half,” Higgins said.
Dunbar, who played most of the night for Oak Ridge, finished 9-of-14 passing (64.3 percent) for 122 yards. He was also the second-leading rusher with 64 yards on nine carries.
The Wildcats do not play next Friday night. They’ll play at home again against Webb on Friday, October 23. The Spartans are 3-3 overall and 2-1 in Division II, Class A, East and Middle Region.
Oak Ridge’s final game of the regular season will be at home against Campbell County (4-3, 2-1 Region 3-5A) on Friday, October 30.
See photos of the Thursday night game by Julio Culiat here.
See preliminary stats by Mark Haste here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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