Wildcats open at Jefferson County

Area high school weight rooms and football fields are quiet as players and coaches are away during the midst of the TSSAA-mandated dead period.

But the 2024 high school football season is looming and teams will resume preparations for the upcoming season Monday after a two-week hiatus.

Oak Ridge High School will again have high expectations coming off a 9-3 finish and a Region 3-5A championship.

The Wildcats, however, were eliminated in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs with a 24-21 loss to region and geographical rival Clinton at Blankenship Field.

ORHS, which won all four of its regular-season region games in 2023, will open its second season under head Coach Derek Rang when it faces Region 1-6A Champion Jefferson County in Dandridge.

The Patriots, coached by former Tennessee football player Spencer Riley, went 10-2 last season. They lost their season opener to the Wildcats 30-14 on the road, before reeling off 10 consecutive wins before being eliminated in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Jefferson County is one of eight ORHS opponents that made it to the postseason last season. Powell, McMinn County, the Dragons, Knox Central, Bearden, Lenoir City all made the playoffs. The Patriots, Panthers (9-4), McMinn County (6-5), the Bulldogs (9-4) and Lenoir City (7-5) all had winning records last year.

Oak Ridge will have an open date in Week 2, After that, the Wildcats will head to Scarbro Stadium in Powell to face a Class 5A powerhouse. The Wildcats outlasted the Panthers 35-21 last season.

The ’Cats will return home on Sept. 13 to open Region 3-5A play against Karns. Oak Ridge routed the Beavers 41-0 at Karns last season.

On Sept. 20, the Wildcats will host McMinn County (6-5 in 2023). They’ll look to avenge last year’s 14-3 loss in Athens last year.

In Week 6, Oak Ridge will entertain longtime rival Clinton. The Wildcats and Dragons met twice in 2023. The Wildcats won the regular-season meeting, 37-24, but Clinton ended Oak Ridge’s season in the second round of the playoffs with a 24-21 victory.

The Wildcats will host Knox Central on Oct. 4. The Bobcats will have a new head coach as Kevin Lane takes the reins in Fountain City. Lane was once defensive coordinator at Central. He’s also worked at Knoxville West and Knoxville Catholic.

On Oct. 11, Oak Ridge hosts Farragut in one of the area’s longest-running rivalries. The Admirals also have a new head coach as Geoff Courtney replaces his father, Eddie, a high school coaching legend. Oak Ridge posted a 35-3 victory over the Admirals at Bill Clabo Field in West Knox County last season.

On Oct. 18, ORHS will make the trip to Bearden to face the Bulldogs. Bearden edged the Wildcats 33-29 in West Knoxville last season on its way to a 9-4 season.

Oak Ridge will finish its season with two more road games against regional foes Lenoir City Oct. 25 and Campbell County Nov. 1.

In Loudon County, the Wildcats will see a familiar face as they face their former head Coach Scott Cummings. Cummings, who coached ORHS in 2022, inherits a team that went 6-5.

In the regular-season finale, the Wildcats will head to Jacksboro to face Campbell County, which also has a new head coach in Mark Pemberton. Pemberton has coached at Rhea County, Knoxville Catholic and Rockwood, leading the Irish to a state title.