LENOIR CITY—Oak Ridge senior Caleb Jackson scored two touchdowns for the Wildcats on Friday, and he recovered two Lenoir City turnovers during a 45-8 win over the Panthers.
Senior wide receiver Tee Higgins, a Clemson commitment, added three touchdowns for Oak Ridge.
The Wildcats scored on their first four drives, once after intercepting Lenoir City sophomore quarterback Gabe Williams.
Halfway through the regular season, Oak Ridge is undefeated at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in Region 3-5A.
Lenoir City fell to 1-4 and 0-2 with the loss at home on Cecil Thomas Field.
Oak Ridge plays Sevier County (1-4, 1-1 Region 1-5A) at home on Blankenship Field at 7:30 p.m. September 23. It’s Homecoming Night.
For the first time this season, Oak Ridge sophomore running back Jordan Graham had no touchdowns. Normally an offensive playmaker, especially when he gets to the outside and can run down the sideline, Graham was held to 27 total yards on eight carries. He turned his ankle during the game, Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said.
In the previous four games, Graham rushed for between 146 yards and 271 yards per game.
Higgins, another offensive playmaker who led receivers Friday, had 149 yards on eight catches and the three touchdowns. He now has 10 touchdowns this season, compared to nine for Graham. Higgins again had athletic catches where he had to leap high to catch the ball, even while double-teamed, and touchdown receptions where he had to beat at least two defenders to get into the end zone.
“They had no answer to Tee,” Gaddis said of Lenoir City. Oak Ridge could probably throw to Higgins on every play, he said. But, he added, “our offense can’t just depend on one guy.”
It was the second touchdown of the season for Jackson. The first was a week earlier during a 48-34 win over Anderson County.
Also scoring for Oak Ridge at Lenoir City on Friday was sophomore Tre Jackson. He rushed for a touchdown on a 26-yard run at the end of the Wildcats’ opening six-play drive. It was also the second TD this year for Tre Jackson.
Junior Carson McGhee added a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in the first half. That score followed Caleb Jackson’s interception of a Lenoir City pass in the end zone.
That interception by Jackson killed what could have been a 74-yard touchdown drive for the Panthers.
It was one of at least three Lenoir City drives that ended with the Panthers not being able to convert on a scoring opportunity. On the Panthers’ second drive, Williams, the Lenoir City quarterback, scrambled right and threw to junior wide receiver Landon Miller at the right side of the end zone on a fourth-and-15, but Miller came down with the ball out of bounds.
The Panthers came close to scoring again late in the third quarter, with the clock running because Oak Ridge was ahead by more than 35 points. On a fourth-and-10, Lenoir City junior fullback Brantley Stockett made it to about the Oak Ridge half-yard line, but he appeared to be stopped there by Wildcats senior Jacob Gross and other defenders.
Oak Ridge played without three starters on defense who had shoulder injuries: senior linebacker Kyndall Clark, junior safety Adarius Simpson, and senior lineman Wilson Hammer. Gaddis hopes to have them back this week against Sevier County.
But a fourth defender, sophomore Caelan Thompson, could be out another month with a knee injury, Gaddis said.
The coach said the Wildcats tackled “much, much better” against Lenoir City than they did the week before against Anderson County. They caused turnovers, and with the exception of a three-yard touchdown run by Lenoir City after an Oak Ridge fumble early in the fourth quarter, had a shutout.
Oak Ridge also contained the quarterback better than they did a week earlier against Anderson County, Gaddis said.
But the offense didn’t block well, including up front, he said. Oak Ridge had a few big plays with Higgins and some key running plays.
At 5-0 now, “we certainly control our own destiny,” Gaddis said.
Higgins scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Johnny Stewart into the right side of the end zone late in the first quarter, followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, and a 58-yard TD pass early in the third.
Caleb Jackson had five-yard and two-yard touchdown runs in the second and fourth quarters.
Williams had the lone touchdown for Lenoir City. The Panthers were successful on the two-point conversion.
The Wildcats finished with 375 yards total against Lenoir City, with 174 on the ground and 201 through the air.
The Panthers had 223, with 60 rushing and 163 passing.
Oak Ridge was led in rushing by senior Chase Kimbro with 55 yards on three carries.
Stewart, the Oak Ridge quarterback, threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and had 12 completions on 20 attempts (60 percent).
In defensive highlights, junior Adarius Cox had three tackles and four assists, senior Jacob Gross had four tackles and two assists, and Caleb Jackson had five tackles. And Oak Ridge senior Jaret Miner intercepted Williams early in the second quarter, setting up the Wildcats’ fourth touchdown drive.
Oak Ridge last played at Lenoir City in 1965. The two teams last played in 2015 on Blankenship Field, their first meeting since a 1966 game in Oak Ridge.
See Tee Higgins’ first touchdown catch here, with video courtesy Myles Hebrard:
— Myles Hebrard (@myleshebrard) September 17, 2016
See a run by Caleb Jackson here, with video courtesy Myles Hebrard:
See more photos and videos here.
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