In its biggest game of the season, the Oak Ridge High School football team came up with its most-dominant performance.
The Wildcats had a home playoff game hanging in the balance in their 2022 season finale Friday night and they wasted little time seizing control of the game against Campbell County in Jacksboro en route to capturing a 41-6 victory over the Cougars.
“We just came in and pushed the ball forward,” said Oak Ridge junior quarterback Ethan Garza, who finished 12-for-16, amassing 201 yards and throwing three touchdown strikes.
Oak Ridge scored on its first possession of the contest as it took the opening kickoff and returned it to its own 45-yard line. The Wildcats then engineered a drive that was culminated with a 1-yard scoring plunge by De’Jauvis Dozier. David Wilson added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 9 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Wildcats (5-5 overall, 4-1 in Region 3-5A), who have dominated the all-time series against the Cougars (5-5, 2-3), winning 37 of 38 meetings between the two teams, added the possible knockout blow as they successfully executed an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff.
Garza then lofted a scoring strike to Brandon Heyward to give the Wildcats a two-touchdown lead with 8:54 left in the opening frame.
As potent and efficient as the Oak Ridge offensive attack was, it was the defense that really made life miserable for the Cougars and their talented sophomore quarterback, Landen Hensley.
The Wildcats held CCHS to minus-1 yard rushing over the opening 24 minutes of the contest. ORHS held the Cougars on downs. A short time later, the Wildcats’ Pryce Davis intercepted a pass from Hensley and had a big return that would set up Garza’s second touchdown pass, a 43-yarder to Connor Cummings.
Izzy Mitchell also had an interception in the first half, and that would lead to another score, a 20-yard scamper by Dozier, which made it 27-0.
And the Wildcats weren’t finished.
Almani Rembert caught a touchdown pass from Garza in the waning seconds of the first half to give Oak Ridge the 34-0 advantage it enjoyed at halftime.
Wildcats’ first-year head Coach Scott Cummings was ecstatic after the game.
“(Defensive coordinator Robert) Ayers drew up the perfect game plan, the perfect scheme, against Campbell County, but you’ve got to go out and execute it, and that’s easier said than done,” Cummings said. “Our kids did that.”
The Wildcats have suffered through a 2022 campaign filled with adversity and injuries.
But the coach is hoping that his squad has a deep postseason run ahead.
“We’re getting healthy and we’re learning how to take direction, take coaching,” Cummings said.
“From here on out, it’s all (Class) 5A football, and hopefully we can get on a run.”
Jai Hundley had a 9-yard touchdown dash after halftime.
Brian Kelley recovered a CCHS fumble on the final play of the third quarter for the Wildcats.
The Cougars avoided the shutout with a touchdown late in the final stanza.
Oak Ridge will open the TSSAA Class 5A playoffs at Blankenship Field against Rhea County (2-8) on Friday night.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.