Del Oro’s might proves too much for Trojans
By Cody Holliday
LOOMIS — For the first three quarters of Friday night’s big Oak Ridge-Del Oro preseason showdown, it looked like the team who had the football last would emerge the winner. After opening the fourth quarter with a scoring drive to close within a touchdown, the undefeated Trojans looked poised to rally.
Instead, it was the Golden Eagles behind a punishing ground game, who seized control with three, fourth-quarter scores to bury the visiting Trojans 49-29.
“Our offensive line was phenomenal tonight,” Del Oro head coach Casey Taylor said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game and they (offensive line) just took over in the fourth and wore them (Oak Ridge) down.”
Lined up at their own 20-yard line after Troy’s score had cut their lead to seven, the Golden Eagles went with their strength — running the football — to grind out a game-clinching, seven-play drive. Nick O’Sullivan quickly got the home team down the field, ripping off 30- and 38-yard runs on the first two plays. Five plays later, Brandon Monroe went in from 2 yards out to give Del Oro a 35-21 lead.
“They (Eagles) controlled both sides of the ball tonight,” Oak Ridge head coach Eric Cavaliere said. “That was the difference tonight. They were just the more physical team.”
From the onset, both teams hit on all cylinders. Del Oro (3-1) marched 80 yards in 13 plays to open the game — the final 10 coming as quarterback Bobby Heatherington hit Blake Covey for a touchdown. Oak Ridge (3-1) answered right back in five plays, highlighted by two catches from Dylan Collie, when Trojan quarterback Jason Samuels found Lance Berringer on the back-end of a 33-yard scoring toss.
“We knew we were going to be in for a big game,” Taylor said. “We knew offensively they could put points on the board. Tonight our O-line took the game over and from the first drive we ran the ball very well.”
Del Oro’s ground game churned out 358 yards, 178 of them from Monroe and 148 by O’Sullivan.
“When a team can lean on you for 3, 5, 7 yards every time, it’s a definite advantage,” said Cavaliere of the Del Oro offense. “They do what they do very well and they were just much more physical tonight. We’ll definitely learn from this — we have to be that team that takes control.”
With the game tied at 7-all, the Golden Eagles’ second drive also found pay dirt as Monroe had running room and raced 57 yards for a 14-7 lead. Two possessions later, the Trojans tied the game as Samuels hit Brandon Herd on a 7-yard score. On the drive, Collie caught a pass for 44 yards and Berringer added one for 20.
“Early on we had some success moving the ball,” Cavaliere said. “We had some miscues late that really hurt us: penalties, dropped passes and giving them short fields. Against a team like Del Oro, you can’t do that.”
Del Oro’s offense came right back as Monroe ripped off another 57-yard scoring run to put the Eagles up 21-14. Alex Bertrando thwarted Troy’s ensuing drive at midfield when he intercepted Samuels.
After forcing the Trojans to punt on their first second-half possession, the Golden Eagle offense again went to work and drove 62 yards in 11 plays with O’Sullivan covering the final 4. Oak Ridge countered as Preston Dean turned his own fumble recovery into a 7-yard touchdown run.
“It was definitely a back-and-forth game there through the first three quarters,” Taylor said. “We nearly let them right back into it. They kept coming and took advantage of our fumble. After that, our offense just took it upon themselves to take control.”
Oak Ridge added a late score as Samuels hit Byron Spain on a 53-yard connection and Collie followed by passing to Berringer for the two-point conversion.
“Monday we go back to work getting back to what we do best,” Cavaliere said. “I feel the best is yet to come from this football team. We have two weeks to get rested and get ready to make a run.”
Samuels finished with 225 yards on 15-of-23 passing with three touchdowns for Troy. Collie had a game-high 76 yards receiving while Berringer accounted for 53 yards. Blake Martin led Oak Ridge with 43 yards rushing and Dean added 21.
Stats courtesy of Haley Anderson