The Oak Ridge Wildcats’ 41-28 win over Dobyns-Bennett on Friday featured acrobatic catches by senior wide receiver Tee Higgins, long touchdown runs by sophomore running back Jordan Graham, and three fumble recoveries by senior linebacker Kyndall Clark. He forced one and recovered another for a touchdown.
There were also a few firsts: first touchdown catch for junior wide receiver Caleb Martin and first interception of the season for senior linebacker Jacob Gross. And sophomore Kai’Reese Pendergrass, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown at Clinton last week, stopped a Dobyns-Bennett drive on Blankenship Field on Friday with an interception in the end zone in the third quarter.
The Indians (1-1, 0-0 Region 1-6A) dominated in total yards in the non-region game: 579 to 391. They also had 21 first downs to Oak Ridge’s nine.
But Dobyns-Bennett lost four fumbles and gave up two interceptions, and penalties (11 for 101 yards) also hurt the Indians. The Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 Region 3-Class 5A) had no turnovers.
Much of the buzz after the game focused on two highlight-reel catches by Higgins, who was double-teamed on both.
See Tee Higgins’ 27-yard one-handed catch against Dobyns-Bennett on Blankenship Field on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Video courtesy Myles Hebrard)
— Myles Hebrard (@myleshebrard) August 27, 2016
In between Graham’s first and second touchdowns, Clark scored a defensive touchdown. He snapped the punt at the end of Oak Ridge’s second four-down drive and raced straight downfield. After calling for a fair catch, Dobyns-Bennett fumbled the football. Wildcats sophomore Caelan Thompson tried to recover it, and he hit it up and into the end zone, where Clark jumped on it.
Then, Clark stopped the Indians’ next 10-play drive, stripping the ball from senior wide receiver Jacob Patton on a crossing route from the Dobyns-Bennett 46 and recovering it at the Oak Ridge 12. Clark said Patton caught the football but stuttered when he hauled it in, and Clark grabbed the ball from behind and pulled it out.
Besides the fumbled punt return that he recovered in the end zone in the first quarter and the stripped ball that he recovered in the second, Clark also recovered a fumble by senior running back Bryce Barrett when Dobyns-Bennett was at the Oak Ridge 3 in the last minute of the third quarter. That recovery followed a pass dropped by Indians junior tight end Carter Holt on a first-and-goal from the Oak Ridge 3.
In addition to his three fumble recoveries, Clark was also credited with eight tackles and five assists.
“I’m pretty pleased with the game,” Clark said.
Martin was pleased with his first touchdown catch, a 12-yard grab at the end of a nine-play drive that included a Dobyns-Bennett player ejection and a pass interference call that moved Oak Ridge halfway to the goal line from the Indians 23.
“It felt great,” Martin said of the TD catch. “It felt surreal. I didn’t knew what to do after I caught it.”
He beat Dobyns-Bennett junior defender Matt Diminick, who fell to the ground in the end zone, and Stewart threw the ball right into the hands of Martin, who had turned around to make the catch near the left pylon.
That touchdown gave Oak Ridge a 34-14 lead at 5:07 in the third quarter.
The other three Dobyns-Bennett touchdowns came on the Indians’ first drive of the second half on a 41-yard pass from Maupin to junior wide receiver Caleb Whetsell early in the third quarter, and one-yard and 12-yard runs by Maupin in the fourth quarter.
Gaddis said Oak Ridge had a great first half and held on in the second. The Wildcats had big plays on defense and a timely offense, he said. The Wildcats also won the turnover battle, Gaddis said.
But players had cramps in the second half—Clark said trainers saved the team—and Gaddis and the team said they need to drink more water leading up to next Friday’s game at home against Farragut.
See Tee Higgins’ 12-yard touchdown catch in double coverage against Dobyns-Bennett on Blankenship Field on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (Video courtesy Myles Hebrard)
— Myles Hebrard (@myleshebrard) August 27, 2016
There were some mistakes Friday, but the Wildcats have to bounce back and keep up the score next week against Farragut (2-0, 0-0), Graham said. That game starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 2, on Blankenship Field.
Oak Ridge can’t let Farragut move the ball, Clark said.
“That’s a game we really want to win,” Higgins said. Farragut beat Oak Ridge last year.
Graham led the Wildcats in rushing against Dobyns-Bennett on Friday with 214 yards on 13 carries and three touchdowns.
Higgins led in receiving with six catches for 94 yards and one touchdown. Martin had two catches for 39 yards and one touchdown.
Stewart had 10 completions on 15 attempts (66.7 percent) for 148 yards and two passing touchdowns.
In other defensive highlights, senior linebacker Chase Kimbro had seven tackles and three assists, and senior linebacker Caleb Jackson had five tackles, two assists, and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, when Dobyns-Bennett was inside the Oak Ridge 20.
The interception by Gross was just a few minutes after Jackson’s fumble recovery.
Maupin led the Indians in rushing with 78 yards on 19 carries. He had 33 completions on 51 attempts (64.7 percent), with one passing touchdown and two interceptions.
Patton led Dobyns-Bennett in receiving with 178 yards on 15 catches, and Whetsell had 114 yards on six receptions and one touchdown.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See preliminary game statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste here.
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