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Trojans eager for postseason

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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Oak Ridge enters the 2011 playoffs as the 13th seed in the Division I bracket. Despite the less-than-desirable seed, the Trojans are in the postseason and ready to win some games. On Friday the 6-4 Trojans travel to Sacramento to face Burbank High, champions of the Metropolitan League and seeded fourth with a 9-1 record. As far as Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere is concerned, once a team reaches the playoffs their records don’t mean a thing. Oak Ridge believes they can win Friday despite a 6-4 record and a 13th-seed. “We’ve felt like we’ve had a chance to win every one of our games this season,” Cavaliere said. “That’s what’s great about being in a tough league like the Delta River League. Even in a game we lost like Friday against Folsom, we improved and the playoffs are where that’s going to pay off. You can be in a weaker league and go 5-0 and dominate, but it doesn’t help you in the playoffs.” The Trojans have four losses, but have been competitive in nearly every game they’ve played. They will need a superb effort to get by Burbank, who averages nearly 500 yards rushing a game and 100 yards passing. Running back Isaiah Williams has rushed for 1,438 yards and 22 touchdowns. Teammate Keith Marcus has gained 992 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns. “We’re going to have to be excellent run stoppers,” Cavaliere said. “We haven’t faced a team like Burbank this season and when they run a play it happens quickly.” Oak Ridge has been hampered by injuries this season, but is getting a bit healthier. Dylan Collie played the entire game Friday night at receiver was effective, catching nine passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. His replacement at quarterback, sophomore Dylan Sipes, played extremely well in his first start, completing 15-of-25 passes for 171 yards and two scores. Preston Dean, who’s had a shoulder injury, only played half the snaps he normally would against Folsom, but is on the road to recovery. Folsom 35, Oak Ridge 31 Folsom struggled for most of the night, never seemingly putting its game together against an upset-minded Oak Ridge team that is far better than its 6-4 record. The Trojans had the 8-2 Bulldogs on their heels, leading 31-21 with 7:24 to play, until Folsom did what they needed to do to get the win, scoring two touchdowns in a 1:15 and playing solid defense the rest of the game. Folsom quickly moved the ball from their own 43 to the Oak Ridge 11 on four pass plays before Tanner Trosin threw a shuffle pass to Troy Knox, who scampered 11 yards for a touchdown with 6:09 remaining to cut the lead to 31-28. After the defense held Oak Ridge to a three-and-out and forced a punt, Trosin hooked up with J’Juan Muldrow for a short screen pass and Muldrow ran 44 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs on top for good with 4:54 to play. Folsom forced another Trojan punt with 3:55 to play and then ran the clock out to secure the win. The Trojans played a superb game in the loss, as they led a majority of the way thanks to an opportunistic defense and solid performance out of sophomore quarterback Dylan Sipes. After his first two passes were way off target, Sipes played with confidence and poise, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Collie and helping lead the team to a near upset over Folsom. “This week was exciting and I was nervous at first, but the team made me feel comfortable and that made me confident,” Sipes said. “For my first varsity start, I thought I played well, but I’ve got to improve.” Sipes’ second touchdown pass to Collie, coming on fourth-and-one from the eight-yard line with 5:06 to play in the third quarter, gave the Trojans a 24-14 lead. Folsom cut the lead to three with a three-yard run from Trosin three minutes later. After forcing Oak Ridge to punt, Folsom had the ball on the Oak Ridge 16 when Trosin’s pass tipped off the hands of Phillip Carter and into the hands of Bobby Gatta, who raced 85 yards down the sideline for the score that gave the Trojans another 10-point lead, 31-21, with 10:57 to play. Gatta had three picks in the game. The Bulldogs again moved the ball down the field on their next possession, but this drive ended in another interception by Gatta, this time in the end zone. “Ben Sweet broke up the pass and the ball popped up in the air and I just dove for it and got it,” Gatta said. At this point with a 10-point lead and all the momentum, the Trojans were clearly in control, but Folsom stepped up and fought its way to victory. “There are no excuses,” Cavaliere said. “We’re a good football team and we believed we could win and gave it a good shot. They’re an excellent football team, but so are we. The big thing tonight was that we improved. We didn’t get the win that we were looking for, but we improved as a team and that’s what you want to do at this time of year.” Oak Ridge 37, Folsom 8 In what many thought would be a competitive game turned out to be a blowout, as the Trojans earned the Delta River League championship with a 37-8 win over the Bulldogs. Josh Wellman ran for three touchdowns in the first half and caught a touchdown pass from Victor Bunce in the second as the Trojans rolled to the win. Tanner Hughes intercepted a pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown, while Austin Clarke also recorded a safety for the Trojans. Folsom’s only score came late on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Whitfield to Dean Wightman, who also combined for the two-point conversion. “I’m so proud of this team,” Oak Ridge coach Ron Short said. “We played with confidence, grace and just an all-out effort against a very good team.” Oak Ridge finished the year 5-0 in league and 8-2 overall, while Folsom was 3-2 in league and 7-3 overall. Folsom 33, Oak Ridge 7 Oak Ridge High’s freshman football team finished the season with an 8-2 record, as the Trojans lost to Folsom on Thursday, 33-7. The Trojans had a good season with only two losses, but those losses not only came in the first and last games of the season, but also against their closest rivals outside of Ponderosa, in Vista del Lago and Folsom. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and were never threatened. The Trojans scored their only points in the fourth quarter on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Craig Holloway to Tanner Emmanuel. Prior to that, Oak Ridge’s only highlight was an interception by Emmanuel.