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Stunning loss eliminates Trojans

By: Jim Stiles
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The Oak Ridge Trojans, a team written off early in the year after an 0-4 start, turned its season around with five consecutive wins and earning a playoff berth. Oak Ridge, however, saw its Cinderella season end abruptly Friday in a shocking 31-24 home loss to the Woodcreek Timberwolves. These two teams came into the playoffs with 5-5 records and both reeling from losses last week. Oak Ridge struck first behind the running of Jacob Allen and Brett Thompson, as Thompson scored on a 1-yard run to put the Trojans up 7-0. Both teams had their share of mistakes in the first half. At the start of the second quarter the visitors threatened from the 4-yard line but missed a fourth-down field goal attempt wide to the right. Later a Trojan fumble at midfield was only saved by a last ditch tackle by Ben Gallagher. Woodcreek, stymied at the 15-yard line, managed to make this field goal to trail the Trojans 7-3. The halftime momentum belonged to the Trojans as quarterback Conner Benander hit Robbie Beyer repeatedly to set up another Thompson touchdown, this time on a quick slant with just five seconds left in the half. Kyle Sundby robbed the visitors of their last-ditch effort to score with an interception and 40-yard return. The Trojans led at the half 14-3. Sundby would play the hero again on the first play of the second half with a fumble recovery that set up another Trojan score three plays later. This one on a short yardage run by Allen to provide the home team with a comfortable 21-3 lead. Woodcreek, with their backs against the wall, came back with two touchdowns, one by the offense on a pass across the middle and another by the defense on a fumble recovery and run back. That provided the visitors with momentum going into the fourth quarter as well as closing the gap 21-17. Starting the fourth quarter, the home crowd was deafening, the coaches were pumping up the team and the players were telling each other to “finish the game." On their first possession the Trojans ran the ball hard with Allen and Jordan Matanane. But from five yards out, the Timberwolves dug in and only allowed a field goal and Oak Ridge led 24-17. Unfortunately, despite their belief in themselves and their fight through all the adversity of the season, that was the last Trojan score of the game. The visitors scored on a 16-play drive leaving just over a minute on the clock. With just over twenty seconds left Benander threw his first interception in seven games. The run back and touchdown closed out the game in a disappointing 31-24 loss. Throughout the season Trojan coach Eric Cavaliere has stated that there was more to this team than met the eye. Even though the season had just ended, the players carried themselves with pride, shaking hands, patting backs, chest bumping and hugging. Amidst his players Cavaliere expressed his pride at their accomplishments. “This is a team that came through adversity. We believed when others didn’t and these guys got it done when they needed to. I’m just really proud to have been a part of this [season]. I ‘m proud of every one of them for how they stepped up this year.”