Oak Ridge earns No. 3 seed in Division I football playoffs

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Oak Ridge wanted to enter the playoffs with some momentum and wanted to make sure they had a home game and perhaps even a bye week.

As it turns out, things couldn’t have turned out much better for the Trojans. On Friday night, Oak Ridge finished the regular season at home with a solid 31-13 win over Elk Grove. On Saturday, the team learned not only do they get a home football game, but as the third seed in the Division I playoffs, the Trojans also earned a bye week.

“Coming off an overtime loss at home, we needed to face a good opponent, play well, and win and we did all three of those things,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “We ended up in a good spot. We certainly can’t complain with the third seed, as a tied for third-place team, but we earned that spot by beating some good teams and playing in a tough league.”

Oak Ridge (7-3) is the third seed in the Division I bracket behind a pair of league champions: Sierra Foothill League rival Folsom (9-1) and Monterey Trail (10-0), the Metro League champions. On Nov. 9, Oak Ridge will host the winner of Friday’s game between sixth seed Turlock (7-3) and 11th seed Cosumnes Oaks (4-6).

With no game on Friday, Oak Ridge will focus on improving individual skills and knowing all assignments this week in practice. Practices will be a bit shorter, as the team gets a little more rest in preparation for the postseason.

The Trojans ended the regular season Friday with an impressive performance against Elk Grove. While the Trojans’ defense was excellent, the offense scored four touchdowns and managed a field goal in the 18-point win. Quarterback Matt Jenner completed 14-of-25 passes for 200 yards and two touchdown passes to Avant Jacobs and Mitchell Anderson. Anderson also had a rushing touchdown along with 41 yards on the ground, while Jenner also scored a rushing touchdown. Sawyer Merrill caught five passes for 81 yards.

Oak Ridge benefitted from two Elk Grove fumbles in Oak Ridge territory, one inside the five-yard line, and turned both recoveries into their first two touchdowns. They added two more scores in the second and third quarter before kicking a short field goal by Bryce Law in the fourth quarter to finish their scoring.

The Trojans’ defense played particularly well against an Elk Grove offense that has a dynamic rushing attack. Hunter Nabors led the team with 14 tackles, while Justin Lamson had 11 and Ryan Enney was in on 10. Sam Sanders, Matt Murphy and Enney had fumble recoveries.

“Having to prepare for Elk Grove’s triple option attack requires a lot of focus and concentration and because of that we seemed to have a higher sense of intensity leading up to the game,” Cavaliere said. “It was a good week of practice and the team executed on Friday night.”