Oak Ridge nearing playoff berth

By: Matt Long
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A playoff berth is looking more and more likely for Oak Ridge High’s football team. Coming off a 28-0 win over Vista del Lago on Friday, the Trojans are 4-0 in the Sierra Valley Conference with home games against Galt (2-2) and Ponderosa (4-1) yet to play. Oak Ridge opened the season with four straight non-league losses, but ride a four-game win streak into Friday’s game against Galt. If the Trojans are to beat the Warriors, they will have to do it without their best player, Brett Thompson, who is out a few weeks with a tear of his medial collateral ligament in his knee. The good news is that Oak Ridge has already defeated Christian Brothers and Vista without Thompson. In the Warriors, Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere sees a lot of his own team. “They’re very much like us,” Cavaliere said. “They like to run and they’re physical and tough up front. They’re a downhill running team.” The Trojans controlled the game on both sides of the ball against Vista on Friday. The scoring began when Oak Ridge quarterback Connor Benander pitched the ball to running back Jacob Allen from the team’s own 44-yard line. Allen eluded tackles as he dashed into the end zone and Oak Ridge took a 7-0 lead with 8:48 left in the first quarter. Allen scored two more times in the first half, once on a handoff from the Vista 49 and again on a handoff from the Vista 15. The game’s scoring concluded when Benander handed off to running back Jordan Matanane with 1:49 before the half. The Trojan defense proved equally capable by pressuring Vista quarterback Anthony Mull all night. Not only did the Eagles offensive line struggled not only to protect Mull all night long but also running back Trey Hairabedian, normally Vista’s top offensive playmaker. “We struggled up on the interior,” Vista coach Chris Jones said. “We knew that was a strength of Oak Ridge.” Many wondered how Jones would approach the game against Oak Ridge, the team he coached for 13 years before coming to Vista. But again, he maintained it was just another game on the schedule. “Quite honestly, for me it was just another game,” he said. “This wasn’t about me. It’s about (the players). I don’t ever want the focus to be on me.” Cavaliere was pleased to get the win. “It was a weird feeling because there wasn’t a lot of people there for either side and it was kind of dark and raining,” Cavaliere said. “It’s the type of game that can lull a team to sleep. It was a good game and it’s good to win and move on.” The junior varsity Trojans outscored Vista, 49-31, to improve to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Sierra Valley Conference. "We executed very well in the first half which gave us a large lead," Oak Ridge coach Aaron Brackney said. "Thanks to that lead we had an opportunity to get some other guys into the game that have been working hard but haven't cracked the starting line-up. "Our game ball went to Sean Burger, our middle linebacker. He has improved tremedously throughout this year and has helped us a bunch on defense." The freshman team also defeated Vista, 28-0 and are now 6-1 on the year. Jim Ratajczak contributed to this story.