Trojans defeat Burbank, 24-6, to reach section championship gameBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
By looking at Oak Ridge High’s football team after Saturday’s game against Burbank, it would have been hard to figure out whether they won or lost.
There were a lot of hanging heads from the quiet, tired Oak Ridge brotherhood, but that fatigue came from a hard-fought 24-6 win against a big, physical team, on an unseasonably warm late November day.
The Trojans dominated the previously unbeaten and No. 2 seeded Thunder, pounding them on both sides of the ball and winning the battle on the line of scrimmage.
“We practiced all week for this and we came out and took it to them,” said senior starting offensive and defensive lineman Jacob Proul. “We were underdogs, but this is Oak Ridge. We wanted to throw the first punch and we did on both sides of the ball.”
After a quiet first quarter, Oak Ridge did a bulk of its damage in the second, starting with their first drive, which ended in a five-yard touchdown pass from Jason Samuels to 6-foot, 5-inch tight end Ross Dwelley. Samuels hooked up with Dwelley six times for 66 yards on the day, including three plays prior to the touchdown when an 18-yard reception converted a fourth-and-11 play from the Burbank 40-yard line.
“Ross is tough to cover,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “He’s a first-year varsity player and he’s gotten better every week.”
On the Trojans’ next drive, Blake Martin and Josh Wellman gained the first 25 yards of the drive before Samuels completed passes to Justin Priest and Dwelley for 23 yards. On fourth-and-four, Samuels looked for and found his favorite receiver, Byron Spain, in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass and the Trojans led 14-0.
Burbank fumbled the ball away two plays into their next possession and Trent Buenzli recovered it at the Burbank 15. Oak Ridge couldn’t punch it in, but they did add a field goal to their score on a 26-yarder by Ryan Lamb and the Trojans took at 17-0 lead into halftime.
After holding the Titans in the initial possession of the second half, Oak Ridge scored one final time. Moving the ball 47 yards on eight plays, Oak Ridge capped the drive on a six-yard run from Martin.
Burbank countered with its only score of the game, a 39-yard touchdown pass from Ernest Jenkins to Calvin Green, but it’s the only celebrating the Titans would do.
What makes the Trojans good offensively is that they can run and pass with equal ability. That balanced attack was evident on Saturday, as the Trojans rushed for 146 yards and passed for 143.
Fullback Tanner Hughes picked up 51 yards on nine carries, while running backs Blake Martin and Josh Wellman rushed for 50 and 46 yards, respectively. Samuels completed 13 passes for 143 yards.
“We knew it would be a battle,” said Oak Ridge offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Brackney. “Burbank has a great defensive line. Our guys just played their butts off. On defense we totally shut their running game down and that makes it easy when we get good field position.”
The victory advances the Trojans to the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section championship game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Sacramento State where Granite Bay will be waiting.