Note: This story was last updated at 11:45 a.m. Oct. 20.
Oak Ridge trailed Powell in the first half on Blankenship Field on Friday but took the lead and a 28-21 win in the second half.
It was the second week in a row that Oak Ridge (8-1, 5-0 Region 3-5A) struggled in the first half but played better in the second. Last week, Oak Ridge led Clinton 24-21 at halftime but then scored 30 points in the second half to beat the Dragons 54-28.
The Wildcats will meet the only other undefeated team in the region, Fulton (also 8-1, 5-0), at 7 p.m. Thursday in Oak Ridge for the region championship. It’s the last regular-season game.
Powell (1-8, 1-5 after forfeiting six wins due to an ineligible player) had a 21-7 lead over Oak Ridge halfway through the second quarter on Friday. But the Wildcats narrowed the lead to 21-14 on a two-yard run by senior Jordan Graham with 1:20 remaining before halftime. The Wildcats then scored two more touchdowns in the second half while holding the Panthers scoreless.
Oak Ridge limited Powell to just 23 yards rushing, compared to 224 for the Wildcats, and the Panthers had 172 total yards, compared to 394 for Oak Ridge. The Wildcats had 16 first downs, compared to seven for Powell.
The Panthers scored first, converting a fumble recovery into a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior Duece Shreve to junior quarterback Walker Trusley less than four minutes into the game.
But the Wildcats responded two plays later with an 87-yard run by senior quarterback Herbert Booker, tying the game at 7-7 at 7:27 in the first quarter.
Neither team scored on its next three possessions.
But then Powell converted another Oak Ridge fumble into another touchdown, again in one play, this time on a five-yard pass from Trusley to senior Riley Bryant at 7:13 in the second quarter.
A minute later, the Panthers scored again, this time after recovering their own onside kick. They went 42 yards in three plays and scored on a 40-yard pass from Trusley, who evaded a sack and scrambled to the right side of the field, to junior Bailor Walker, who had slipped behind the Oak Ridge defense. Powell led 21-7 about six minutes before halftime.
But that’s when Graham narrowed the gap to 21-14, running the ball in from two yards out at the end of a nine-play, 74-yard Oak Ridge drive. Graham had helped to set up the touchdown on the previous play with a falling reception near the end zone on a 34-yard pass from Booker.
The Wildcats opened the second half with another touchdown to tie the game at 21 at 7:56 in the third quarter. The score came at the end of a four-minute, 76-yard drive that included runs of 24 yards by Booker and 19 yards by senior Caelan Thompson. Thompson scored on a 14-yard run, veering left for the touchdown.
Oak Ridge added the final score of the game on its next possession. A 55-yard-drive received a 35-yard boost on a pass play from Booker to Isaiah Johnson on a third-and-14. Booker scrambled right and lofted a soft pass in the middle of the field to Johnson, who was brought down at the Powell 14. Three plays later, Booker scrambled right again and threw a touchdown pass to senior Jeremy Mitchell in the left side of the end zone, helping to increase the Wildcats’ lead to 28-21 at 2:59 in the fourth quarter.
Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said Powell is, despite their official record now, like a 7-2 playoff-caliber team, but the Wildcats were able to shut them down in the second half.
Graham finished with 92 yards on 13 carries and the one touchdown, according to preliminary statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste. Booker had 64 yards on 14 carries and also his one touchdown.
In passing, Booker had six completions on 10 attempts (60 percent) with 170 yards gained, one touchdown, and no interceptions.
Senior Kai’Reese Pendergrass led receivers with a 59-yard catch. Graham had two catches for 56 yards, according to the preliminary stats.
Junior linebacker Jacob Adams led the defense with four tackles and five assists. Junior safety Jack Replogle had three tackles and three assists; senior Shemar Smith had two tackles, three assists, and a sack; and senior defensive lineman T.J. Johnson had two sacks.
Oak Ridge wins 54-28 at Clinton
At Clinton last week, Oak Ridge scored on its opening drive after an interception by Replogle. After six plays, Wildcats junior Tyrell Romano ran in for a touchdown from 18 yards out.
But the Dragons responded, with help from an Oak Ridge penalty, driving 68 yards in nine plays and scoring on a one-yard run by senior quarterback Luke Harrison. The game was tied 7-7 at 3:48 in the first quarter.
However, the Wildcats answered two plays later, after a 16-yard pass to Graham, with a 24-yard run by Booker, taking a 14-7 lead.
Three plays later, Oak Ridge junior Matthew Calhoun recovered a Clinton fumble, and the Wildcats scored two plays after that with a 17-yard straight-ahead run by Thompson. The Wildcats had a 21-7 lead at 1:26 in the first quarter.
But Oak Ridge then fumbled early in the second quarter, and Clinton converted. Again helped by a Wildcats penalty, the Dragons scored on another one-yard run by Harrison, but the extra-point attempt went wide right.
Then, Clinton (now 3-6, 2-3) scored on its next possession to tie the game at 21 with 1:14 left in the first half. Their 74-yard drive was helped again by an Oak Ridge penalty. This time, senior Andrew Shoopman ran the ball in from one yard out. The Dragons tied the game with a two-point conversion by senior Isiah Washington.
Oak Ridge, which had some uncharacteristic unsportsmanlike calls in the first two quarters, led 24-21 at halftime after a 22-yard field goal by sophomore Camden Mlekodaj.
The score remained close through most of the third quarter, with the Wildcats scoring on a five-yard pitch to Pendergrass at 6:59 and the Dragons answering with a 35-yard pass from Harrison to Washington, who was between two Oak Ridge defenders.
But Oak Ridge then scored 23 unanswered points starting late in the third quarter to take the 54-28 win. The Wildcats had a five-yard touchdown pass from Booker to Romano with a two-point conversion by Replogle, a two-yard scoring run by Romano with another two-point conversion by Replogle, and a 51-yard punt return by Pendergrass.
Gaddis said the Oak Ridge defense struggled for a bit for the first time in this game. He gave credit to Clinton, especially to their linemen.
Booker was 6-of-9 for 71 yards (66.7 percent) with one touchdown, and he led in rushing with 93 yards on nine carries and one touchdown.
Romano ran for 68 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns, and Graham had 48 yards on seven carries, according to preliminary statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste.
Adams had five tackles, 10 assists, and one sack; Thompson had five tackles and seven assists; and Smith had four tackles and eight assists.
Oak Ridge had 356 yards, compared to 232 for Clinton.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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