The Oak Ridge Wildcats won a close one-point game against Hardin Valley Academy on Friday night when the Hawks missed an extra point with 21.5 seconds left in the season opener.
The Hawks scored in the final minute after Oak Ridge junior linebacker Jeremy Mitchell dropped a Hardin Valley player in the backfield, and the football came loose. There was a scramble for the ball near the goal line, and it squirted into the end zone, where Hardin Valley recovered it for a touchdown. The Hawks then trailed by just one point, 21-20.
They had a chance to tie the game at 21 with an extra point, and they had a chance to take the lead with a two-point conversion.
A few extra point attempts by Hardin Valley were waived off due to penalties, including one on a try that was no good and bounced down to Blankenship Field off the crossbar on an Oak Ridge offsides.
The final attempt went wide left, and Oak Ridge kept its 21-20 lead with 21.5 seconds remaining.
Hardin Valley, a Class 6A team, used an onsides kick to try for one final score in the final seconds of the non-region game. But Oak Ridge, a Class 5A team, recovered and only had to take a knee to run out the clock.
The Wildcats and the Hawks were relatively evenly matched in total offense on Friday, their first match since 2012. Oak Ridge had 256 total yards, and Hardin Valley had 283. But Oak Ridge had the majority of its offense through the air (164 yards passing), while Hardin Valley had most of its gains on the ground (244 yards rushing).
The Wildcats scored on their first play, on a 59-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Johnny Stewart to senior wide receiver Caleb Martin, crossing the field from right to left. Martin led receivers with 64 yards on two catches and the one touchdown.
Oak Ridge junior Kai’Reese Pendergrass also had a touchdown reception, and he had 60 yards on five catches. Battling one-on-one against a Hardin Valley defender, Pendergrass had a tough 15-yard catch that set up the second Oak Ridge touchdown from the Hawks’ one-yard line in the final minute of the first half. Wildcats sophomore running back Tyrell Romano ran that score into the right side of the end zone to give Oak Ridge a 14-7 lead after the extra point with 30.4 seconds remaining in the first half.
Romano led the Wildcats on the ground, with 46 yards on eight carries and that one touchdown.
Stewart rushed for 18 yards, and so did senior running back Adarius Simpson. Passing, Stewart made 11 completions on 15 attempts (73.3 percent) for 164 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns.
Hardin Valley scored its only touchdown of the first half on a second-and-two from the Oak Ridge 30 when senior running back Aaron Dykes swept up the right side of the field and into the end zone.
A fumble recovery by Hardin Valley early in the third quarter set up another touchdown run by Dykes, who broke tackles on an eight-yard run that angled into the left corner of the end zone, tying the score at 14 after the extra point.
The Wildcats scored their third and final touchdown during a 76-yard second-half drive that included several quarterback keepers by Stewart and ended with a seven-yard pass to Pendergrass into the right side of the end zone. The score was 21-14 with 6:26 left.
The Wildcats had a fumble recovery on the kickoff after that touchdown, with junior defensive back Herbert Booker recovering a fumble by Hardin Valley junior Cartez Campbell near the left sideline at the Oak Ridge 33.
But after a four-down series that ended with an Oak Ridge punt, the Hawks had one final 51-yard drive that led to their last touchdown on the fumble recovery in the end zone and the final 21-20 score.
“This team was definitely resilient tonight,” Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said of the Wildcats. “We stepped up and got it down.”
There are a few mistakes to correct, Gaddis said. Among them were a few low snaps, two turnovers on offense, and a successful “big play” fake punt by Hardin Valley. The Wildcats have an inexperienced offensive line and have to grow up quickly, Gaddis said.
In defensive highlights, senior linebacker Cobe Angel led the Wildcats with five tackles and five assists, according to preliminary statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste. Angel also had a sack for a four-yard loss.
Junior defensive back Shemar Smith had two tackles and five assists with one blocked pass, junior linebacker Jacob Adams had one tackle and six assists, and sophomore defensive back Jack Replogle had one tackle and five assists, according to the preliminary stats.
The Wildcats will play in another non-region game at Dobyns-Bennett, another Class 6A team, in Kingsport at 7 p.m. Friday, August 25.
Oak Ridge will play its first Region 3-5A game at Campbell County on Friday, September 1.
The Friday night game was one of a handful of close contests decided by five points or less in the past several years.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the preliminary team statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste here.
See the preliminary rushing stats here.
See the preliminary receiving stats here.
See the preliminary passing stats here.
See the preliminary tackle stats here.
See more photos here.
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