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Trojans face tough opponent in second-seeded Mustangs

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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In arguably their biggest challenge since facing Del Oro in early October, the Oak Ridge football team travels to Monterey Trail Friday to face the No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

The teams have met only once before in the first round of the playoffs in 2015 with Oak Ridge coming away with a 35-14 win. This year’s game figures to be a bit closer.

The Mustangs are 11-0 and are coming off a 63-7 win over seventh-seeded Pitman last Friday. Monterey Trail does most of their damage offensively on the ground, as it averages 369 yards rushing per game. Senior Jehiel Budget has rushed for 1,286 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, averaging 116 yards per game. Budget has gained at least 100 yards rushing in eight of his team’s 11 games.

Senior Viktor Oliver has gained 720 yards on 72 carries and scored nine touchdowns, while sophomore Prophet Brown is averaging an incredible 16 yards per carry, as he’s gained 554 yards and scored nine times.

Senior quarterback Zach Larrier is also a runner, as he’s picked up 825 yards on the ground and scored 14 touchdowns. As a thrower, Larrier only drops back to pass 10 times a game, but has completed 57 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns and only one interception. Senior Andre Crump is his top target, as he’s caught 27 balls for 597 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averages 22 yards per catch.

“They’re gaining close to 400 yards a game on the ground,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “Their quarterback is a Division I scholarship athlete and can run. He’s been the fastest player on the field in every game he’s played and he will be again on Friday night. They’ve got some talented veer backs behind him, and their wide receiver is as fast as the quarterback. We’ve played well against teams with comparable athletes to us, but where we’ve struggled this year is against teams that are more athletic than us, so we’ve got our hands full.”

As good as Monterey Trail is on offense, it’s equally good on the other side of the ball. While the Mustangs average 50 points per game, they’re only allowing eight points per game. They’ve shutout their opponents in four of their last six games. Monterey Trail hasn’t allowed an opponent more than seven points since beating Paraclete (Lancaster) 41-27 on Sept. 21.

In comparison, the Trojans (8-3), the tournament’s third seed, are averaging 33 points per game, while allowing 20.

“Their defense is very athletic; it’s like they’ve got a whole team of all-league running backs playing defense,” Cavaliere said. “They’re fast, but they’re also tough and physical. Monterey Trail might have the toughest group of kids in the Sacramento area.”