Oak Ridge overcame a 17-point deficit, but didn’t make the big plays in the second half and fell to St. Mary’s, 38-31, on Friday night.
The loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals ended the season for the Trojans, who finished with an 11-2 record. St. Mary’s, meanwhile, defeated Oak Ridge for the second straight year in the semifinals and advances to face Folsom in the Division I championship game next weekend.
Both the Trojans and Rams had two key possessions in the second half that helped produce a St. Mary’s victory and an Oak Ridge loss. The Trojans had just tied the game early in the third quarter at 17 with a 32-yard field goal from Justin Poerio, and it looked as though Oak Ridge had all the momentum. However, it seemed as if the Rams were waiting for such a moment for their next maneuver. On their next possession, star running back Dusty Frampton lined up in the wildcat formation behind the center and carried the ball five straight times. Frampton gained 54 yards on those carries, finishing the six-play drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to put the Rams back in front to stay 24-17 with 5:45 to play in the quarter.
On the Trojans’ next two possessions, they moved the ball inside the St. Mary’s 40-yard line, but then the drives stalled and ended in failed fourth down conversions. On the first drive, Oak Ridge had the ball first-and-10 at the St. Mary’s 39 but lost two yards on a run by Matt Jenner, and then picked up zero yards on the next two passing plays. On fourth-and-six from the 35-yard line, Jenner’s pass to Poerio was broken up by Tre Jenkins to end the drive.
On the next drive, after Nathan Addleman recovered a St. Mary’s fumble, the Trojans moved the ball 36 yards to the St. Mary’s 42-yard-line. Three plays later, the team found itself with a fourth down situation from the 33-yard line only to see Jenner’s pass go off the hands of Poerio.
After each team traded touchdowns (a one-yard run by Frampton and a 10-yard run from Jenner) to make the score 31-24, St. Mary’s Jamar Marshall returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown that put the Rams up by 14 with 5:40 to play.
Oak Ridge managed one more score on a 32-yard pass from Jenner to Poerio with 1:48 to play, but St. Mary’s recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.
“We gave up a score on offense and then another in the kicking game, and you just can’t do that against good teams,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “Those were killer.”
The score on offense came early in the game and helped the Rams jump out to a 17-0 lead. Trojan quarterback Marco Baldacchino, who missed the first two playoff games with a knee injury, started the game and played the first four possessions before being replaced by Jenner. Baldacchino threw two interceptions, the second which was returned about 20 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Rams a 10-0.
A second Rams’ score midway through the second quarter put them in front 17-0 before the Trojans’ got things going. Oak Ridge capped off a 76-yard drive with a six-yard pass from Jenner to Austin Jarrard with 1:15 to play in the half. On the next play from scrimmage, Sam Sanders intercepted a pass and returned it about 10 yards to give the offense the ball at the 16-yard line. Jenner then found Jarrard again for a second touchdown in three plays from scrimmage and the Trojans trailed 17-14 at halftime.
After tying the game at 17 early in the third quarter, Oak Ridge could never get the go-ahead score.
“We knew it would be tough and we came out fighting,” said Jarrard, who caught 10 passes for 144 yards and two scores. “They just outplayed us in the second half. It was a battle between two very good teams, but they made more plays and that was the difference.”
Jenner completed 25-of-46 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Poerio caught 13 balls for 143 yards and one score. Davin Simmons led the team with 69 yards rushing on 20 carries.