By Tyler Schmidt
Mother Lode News correspondent
Delta River League-leading Folsom came to Oak Ridge High Friday night needing a victory to win the league title outright. Despite a fired-up crowd on a warm November night, the Trojans were outmatched by the Bulldogs’ size and speed and were knocked off in an offensive battle that Folsom easily won 55-34.
In front of a hometown crowd in support of its team on Senior Night, Oak Ridge was focused and ready and took the field with confidence.
“Senior Night meant a lot to my players,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “We wanted to honor our seniors with every one of us playing hard for all 48 minutes. I really felt like we accomplished that and I’m proud of my boys.”
Any momentum the Trojans had at the start of the game quickly shifted to the Bulldogs. After a series of stops by both teams, Folsom quarterback Dano Graves led a masterful drive. Out of the shotgun, Graves hit Jordan Richards and Kori Babineaux and the drive ended on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Graves to Babineaux with six minutes left in the first quarter.
After Oak Ridge couldn’t move the chains in its next possession and punted, the Bulldogs needed little time to score again as Richards tore off a long gainer and Graves found Babineaux once again for another touchdown to go up 14-0.
After another Trojan punt gave Folsom excellent field position, Graves danced around in the pocket, tucked and jogged his way into the end zone to make it 21-0.
After a quarter-break pep talk, Cavaliere got the spark he wanted at the start of the second quarter as Oak Ridge put a nice drive together. Quarterback Will Tostenson found his No. 1 option, Dylan Collie, on multiple third-down plays to keep the chains moving. After some hard running by Jordan Matanane to soften the defense, Ryan Adams exploded up the gut for a much-needed 5-yard touchdown to narrow the deficit.
The Trojans then tried to catch the Bulldogs off guard with a surprise onside kick but the ploy didn’t work and again Folsom had great starting position. Graves eventually connected with Richards on a 11-yard touchdown as Oak Ridge went into panic mode.
The Trojan offense was jittery and couldn’t manage a first down, resulting in another punt from Willie Tucker. The Bulldogs went to the run to wind down the second quarter clock as Richards and Tyler Trosin pounded the rock for short gains until Graves struck on a 34-yard pass to Marcus Hendricks.
Coming into the second half down by 28, the Trojans needed to find a way to get their offense going and found it with senior Dustin Fretwell. On the first play of the half, Tostenson hit Fretwell on a short screen. He picked up a key block from Tucker and then was gone down the sideline for an 89-yard touchdown to make it a 35-14 game.
Oak Ridge had momentum back but not for long as Graves took his team down the field with ease, capping a one-minute drive with another long touchdown pass to Trosin.
The Trojans answered with a big pass play to Adams and the drive was finished off with Matanane’s touchdown run up the left sideline. With the score at 41-21, the game had become an offensive shootout.
After another touchdown run by Richards for 45 yards, Oak Ridge had the ball to start the fourth quarter. With a mix of Matanane running and Tostenson finding his receivers, the Trojans pushed their way down the field. Collie ended the drive with a spectacular touchdown catch on a timing pattern route.
But the Folsom offense proved yet again it was too physical to stop. Graves ran for a long gain and then handed it to Richards on the next play for a 40-yard touchdown scamper. With five minutes remaining, Oak Ridge scored one final time on a grab by Tucker on fourth down. Folsom then ran the clock out to end the regular season for both teams.
Both teams advance to the playoffs. The Trojans play at Lincoln of Stockton Friday while the Bulldogs host Roseville.
“I like our chances in the playoffs,” Cavalier said. “This team we have gets better every single week and we keep constantly improving. We’re hoping to do big things and show that Oak Ridge is a team to be reckoned with.”