Jai Hundley returns, leads ’Cats to win

Throughout the 2022 season, Oak Ridge High School’s football team has been riddled with injuries.

The Wildcats, however, saw running back Jai Hundley return Friday night. And he made a huge impact upon coming back to the Oak Ridge lineup.

Hundley rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to help the ‘Cats notch a 33-13 Region 3-5A victory over Lenoir City on homecoming night at Blankenship Field.

While Hundley was back and had a 12-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter to give ORHS (3-2 overall, 2-0 in the region) a 21-6 advantage, the Wildcats lost starting quarterback Peyton Sharpe to a potential concussion.

Oak Ridge will have an open date this week. After the bye, however, the Wildcats will travel to Powell to face the defending Class 5A State Champion Panthers.

Oak Ridge coach Scott Cummings is hoping his team can get healthy during the week off.

“We have a big game after the bye when we play Powell,” Cummings said. “We’ll have to see who we’ll have when we go over there.

“Hopefully, we’ll be surprised and get everybody back. We had another one tonight because Peyton has a potential concussion.”

Oak Ridge lost its starting quarterback Friday night against Loudon County’s Panthers (1-4, 0-2).

Enter junior Ethan Garza. After seeing significant time in the Wildcats’ recent loss to Farragut, he had a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Heyward that gave Oak Ridge a 27-6 lead in the third quarter. He also had a 3-yard scoring run to close out the scoring in the final frame.

Garza said he was ready when called upon against Lenoir City.

“Peyton went down and might have a concussion and I had to come in and I just had to do what I had to do,” he said. “I just had to step up to the plate.”

The Wildcats overcame a pair of fumbles in the red zone against the Panthers but Oak Ridge scored first when DeJauvis Dozier scored on a 39-yard scamper with 7 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter. David Wilson added the extra point to extend Oak Ridge’s advantage to 7-0.

Dozier’s first touchdown came after the Wildcats stopped Lenoir City on fourth down.

The Panthers would answer a short time later on a long touchdown run by Tristan Carino to make the score 7-6. LCHS missed the extra point.

Dozier, who finished 127 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, found the end zone from 1-yard out to make it 14-6 with 3:42 left in the opening frame.

Hundley’s run gave the Wildcats the 21-6 advantage they enjoyed at halftime. Garza’s TD pass all but put the game out of reach but Lenoir City pulled to within 33-13 when Blade Yeager recovered an Oak Ridge fumble and returned the ball 82 yards for a touchdown.