On Friday night, the Oak Ridge Wildcats looked like a play-off caliber team while the Clinton Dragons looked like what they are — a young team in rebuilding mode.
The Wildcats won 42-6, giving head coach Joe Gaddis his 300th career win.
It was all Oak Ridge early and it pretty much stayed that way for the bulk of the game.
The Wildcats took the opening possession and marched 80 yards in nine plays as running back Tyrell Romano ran for gains of 20 and 22 yards. Quarterback Johnny Stewart completed a 23-yard pass to Caleb Martin and later completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Mitchell.
Carson McGhee kicked the extra point to give Oak Ridge a 7-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter.
On the following possession, the Dragons were held to a quick three and out.
The Wildcats took over on their own 28-yard line but the Clinton defense forced a three and out of its own.
The second Clinton possession was marred by back-to-back illegal procedure penalties on first down. Oak Ridge’s Herbert Booker got a quarterback sack on third down to force another Garrett Zody punt, this one from his own end zone.
Four plays later, Stewart threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Martin.
McGhee added the extra point and the Wildcats led 14-0 with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter. The third Clinton possession resulted in a three and out as Mitchell recorded a quarterback sack on third down.
Zody again punted out his own end zone as time wound down in the first quarter.
The Dragons’ Luke Johnson blew up a screen pass on second down resulting in a loss of yardage. An incomplete pass later and Oak Ridge opted to go for it on fourth down. Clinton’s Andrew Shoopman slammed into the ball carrier and dropped him for a loss of yardage, giving the Dragons the ball at their own 34-yard line.
Two penalties and and another sack by Mitchell forced another punt from Zody near his own goal line.
Martin returned the punt to the Clinton five-yard line.
One play later, Romano ran it in for the score.
McGhee kicked the extra point and the Wildcats led 21-0 with 9:29 left in the half.
From that point, the two teams spent much of the remainder of the half trading punts as the Clinton defense stiffened with its back to the wall.
Misfortune struck the Dragons when one of their players lost his footing while setting up for the punt return. The punt hit the ground and bounced once, The ball hit the Clinton player on top of the head, making it a live ball and the Wildcats recovered it on it’s own 48-yard line.
A holding penalty plus an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the ball back to the Oak Ridge 27-yard line. A three-yard loss on second down was followed by a sack from the Dragons’ Trevon Hill.
Facing third and 38 from his own 22-yard line, Stewart fired a 78-yard touchdown pass to Martin.
McGhee’s extra point made it a 28-0 Oak Ridge lead at the half.
On the first play of the second half, disaster struck Clinton as the Wildcats’ T.J. Johnson intercepted a wide receiver pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
McGhee kicked the extra point and the Oak Ridge lead grew to 35-0 with 11:41 left in the third quarter.
With the game under a continuous clock the Dragons’ offense returned to the field.
On third and 11, Josh Breeden took the handoff and raced around the right end, going 86 yards for the touchdown.
The two-point conversion attempt failed and Clinton trailed 35-6 with 8:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Oak Ridge answered with a quick three-play, 50-yard drive as Stewart ran it in from 17-yards out.
Brady Hutson kicked the extra-point and the Wildcats lead swelled to 42-6 with 7:01 remaining in the third quarter.
That was the last score as the game ended under a continuous clock.
“Big plays were the Achilles heel for us. We’d get them in third down and sometimes fourth down and give up that big play. A lot of that is the buy-in factor of knowing we are a good football team and having that swagger that we missing. Other teams seem to have it and when they’ve got it they tend to make the big play,” said Clinton Head Coach Randy McKamey.
“Once again we struggled offensively. We’re just trying to find our identity this year. Obviously, we want to run the football. Wanting to do it and being able to are two different things. We have to stick to what we believe in,” he said.
McKamey said the team is building and they are missing some key players due to injury, suspensions, and a couple of dismissals.
“It’s something we having to do to help change the culture and make kids understand that we’ve got rules and we’re going to follow them. Nobody is bigger than the team,” he said.
The offensive numbers for Clinton were not pretty with the exception of Breeden, who rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
Johnson led the Dragons with nine tackles while Trevor Linderman had eight tackles.
Hill had seven tackles, including two sacks.
Isaiah Washington also had seven tackles.
Andrew Niner had an interception in the fourth quarter.
For the Wildcats, Stewart was 10-18 passing for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
Romano had 44 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Martin had three receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 76 yards on six punt returns.
Defensively, Mitchell had six tackles, including three sacks.
Booker had and interception and a sack while Johnson had an interception and a touchdown.
Clinton falls to 2-6 (0-4 in region play) while Oak Ridge moves to 6-2 (4-0 in region action).
The Wildcats will visit Powell on Friday while the Dragons welcome Campbell County for Homecoming.
Kick-off for each game is 7:30 p.m.
First downs 7 13
Rushing yds. 112 106
Passing yds. 13 194
Comp/att/int 2-8-2 11-19-1
Total yds. 125 300
Turnovers 3 2
Penalties 14-116 9-137
Time of poss. 28:18 19:42