SACRAMENTO — Kyle Belcher’s interception with 1:22 left ended host Burbank’s attempt at a game-winning drive Friday as 13th-seed Oak Ridge shocked the fourth-seed Titans 30-28 to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
With time running out, Burbank quarterback Reymond Morris had just completed a 25-yard pass over the middle to move possession to the Trojan 37-yard line when Belcher leapt up to grab his next pass. The Trojans’ defensive stand came on the heels of their 14-play, 70-yard drive to take the lead.
“I was looking for the ball and trying to make a play,” said Belcher who was swarmed by jubilant Trojan teammates on the sideline after his first interception of the season. “We brought it tonight and were physical. It came down to the last drive and we did what we had to. The interception was big and changed the tide of the game. It’s great to break the drought.”
After especially heartbreaking playoff losses in 2008 and 2010, Oak Ridge’sbroke through with its first postseason victory in seven years Friday. Thanks for that achievement goes to the offensive line, defensive coordinator Darren Jonutz and his defensive unit, special teams and the Trojan coaching staff that stuck with a game plan that allowed running backs Shay Mueller and Preston Dean to run through, around and over the Titan defense.
The Trojans now advance to next Friday’s quarterfinal game at No. 5 Granite Bay.
“Our offensive line took over up front and that’s what a playoff win comes down to — being physical up front,” Troy’s coach Eric Cavaliere said. “Defensively, we took away their run just enough and forced Burbank to throw which is what they didn’t want to do. The interception was huge. Kyle’s a great corner and teams rarely throw his way but I’m glad they did on that play.”
Mueller turned in a career night with 189 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 4:14 left. His slashing style complemented the power running of Dean, who pushed Burbank defenders backward a total of 112 yards on 19 attempts. Dean wore the Titans down in the second half and he and Mueller accounted for all four Oak Ridge touchdowns.
“It was ‘smash and dash,’” Mueller said about Troy’s two-prong attack. “I just kept my legs moving and it’s the best I’ve ever played. Burbank hits hard and it was a physical battle.”
Aided by penalties, the Trojans took a 23-22 lead on Dean’s rugged 19-yard touchdown run and Jon David Smith’s point after just inside the fourth quarter. Dean made contact with all 11 Titans and relied on brute strength to push over the line.
Norris’ answer was an 85-yard scoring strike to Tim Johnson who caught the pass up the middle, side-stepped a referee at midfield and outraced the Oak Ridge defense to pay dirt. Troy stopped Burbank’s two-point conversion try for the second time in the game, which proved to be key to the outcome of the game as the Trojans missed two field goal attempts Friday.
Behind Dean and Mueller, the Trojans reclaimed the lead on Mueller’s 1-yard sprint to the pylon. Knowing the Titans never kicked field goals, Smith drilled the extra point and Oak Ridge’s defense took the field determined to protect the two-point lead.
“Shay ran the ball with a good fullback (Dean) in front of him and as a 1-2 punch, they kicked butt,” Cavaliere said. “We knew we could get some stops on defense and that we’d be able to run the ball and our offense couldn’t be stopped.”
Oak Ridge, which came in wanting to play smart, play physical, play together and play to the finish, got off to a great start as Smith nailed a 42-yard field goal after a defensive stop. Burbank, which ran a triple option featuring Isaiah Williams, Keith Marcus, Norton, Johnson and Calvin Green, went up 8-3 midway into the second quarter on Williams’ 2-yard run.
The Trojans later paid a price when Titan corner Richard McGee stepped in front of receiver Dylan Collie and intercepted Jacob Sipes’ pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown and 16-3 advantage.
Undaunted, Troy responded. After Bobby Gatta’s 25-yard kickoff return to the 40, Sipes hit Collie on a quick out for 12 yards. A penalty moved the ball 15 yards further down field and Mueller and Dean ran it to the Burbank 5 where Sipes rolled into a blitz but was still able to float a short pass to Dean for six points.
Oak Ridge then caught break, ironically after a penalty pushed Smith and the kicking unit back 5 yards. Smith angled a short kick to the right sideline where Trojan Alex Fagalde blew up a late-reacting Titan returner and Chad Augwood recovered the loose ball.
“That offside call turned out to be one of the best things that happened all night. We went for the pop kick and it worked out for us,” Cavaliere said.
Six play later, Mueller flew over the goal line from 8 yards out to send the eams into halftime tied at 16-all — setting the stage for a winner-take-all final two quarters.