Note: This story was last updated at 10 a.m. Nov. 3.
Oak Ridge shut out Rhea County 42-0 in the first round of the Class 5A football playoffs on Blankenship Field on Friday.
“That was a complete game,” Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said. “It couldn’t have been more timely. No one has beaten them (Rhea County) like this.”
The Wildcats (9-2), a Region 3 team, advance to play at Soddy-Daisy (6-4), a Region 4 team, in the second round at 7 p.m. next Friday (November 9). Soddy-Daisy eliminated Clinton (a 4-7 Region 3 team) in another first-round game this Friday.
Winners of the second-round games advance to the state quarterfinals. The winner of the Oak Ridge-Soddy-Daisy game will play the winner of Catholic-Fulton in a quarterfinal game on Friday, November 16.
Oak Ridge and Rhea County (a 4-6 Region 4 team) last met in the playoffs four years ago, in November 2014, when Oak Ridge was eliminated despite a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback that came up short.
On Friday, the Wildcats scored on four of their six possessions in the first half, running up a 35-0 lead by halftime with help from an interception returned for a touchdown by junior Jack Replogle, while Rhea County was not able to get the ball past about midfield. The Golden Eagles were held to 72 yards of total offense through four quarters, while Oak Ridge had 354 yards total, with about half of that on the ground and the other half through the air, according to preliminary statistics by Mark and Shawna Haste.
Oak Ridge had 15 first downs, compared to four for Rhea County, and the Wildcats punted once, while the Golden Eagles punted seven times.
Scoring for Oak Ridge in the first quarter were senior Jeremy Mitchell on a 13-yard goal-line reception from sophomore quarterback Mitchell Gibbons at 9:51 and senior quarterback Herbert Booker, who had faked a handoff, on a 23-yard run at 1:21. Senior Jordan Graham added a third touchdown by running around the right end at 7:31 in the second quarter, Replogle had the interception for a 36-yard touchdown about 50 seconds later, and senior Kai’Reese Pendergrass caught a deflected pass from Gibbons and raced 71 yards up the right sideline for a score with 2:25 left in the first half.
With a running clock in the second half, the Wildcats added the final touchdown of the game on a nine-yard run by senior Tre Jackson at 2:44 in the third quarter. Sophomore Camden Mlekodaj kicked all six extra points to help give Oak Ridge the final 42-0 lead.
Gaddis said he was very proud of the linemen on both offense and defense. It was a “night and day” difference” from the start of the season, he said. Rhea County is a very physical team, and Oak Ridge “whipped them,” Gaddis said.
He said Jackson also ran really well.
“He made a statement, I thought,” Gaddis said.
Booker is trying to get healthy from a shoulder injury, and Gibbons, who played most of the game in place of Booker, was 10-of-13 passing (76.9 percent), with 148 yards, one interception, and two passing touchdowns.
Pendergrass led receivers with 80 yards on two catches and the one touchdown, and Mitchell had 55 yards on three catches and his one touchdown, according to the preliminary stats.
Graham led in rushing with 83 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown, while Jackson had 40 yards on seven carries and one touchdown.
Junior linebacker Jacob Adams led the defense with two tackles and five assists. Senior linebacker Shemar Smith had two sacks, and senior lineman T.J. Johnson had one.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the Class 5A football playoff bracket here.
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