FAIRFIELD — Scoring four consecutive third-quarter touchdowns, visiting Oak Ridge broke loose to whip Fairfield 48-6 Friday to close the preseason.
The Trojans turned an 11-point halftime lead into a rout — starting with Bradford Buenzli’s 90-yard touchdown return of the second half kickoff. Oak Ridge improved its record to 4-1 heading into next week’s Delta River League opener against Sheldon.
A brisk 75 minute junior varsity game moved the varsity start time up 15 minutes. That wasn’t a factor until Falcon Jordon Harris broke off a 77-yard touchdown run on Fairfield’s first possession to allow the hosts to escape a second-and-35 situation.
“No excuses, but it was an odd start and affected our normal routine so it took awhile for us to get in sync. No doubt, Fairfield came out and punched us right in the mouth and had us back on our heels,” Trojan coach Eric Cavaliere said. “It’s a good lesson that will teach us that you have to be ready to play from the first down at this level.”
As the Trojan defense stiffened, Oak Ridge went up 17-6 at the half on Ryan Adair’s 1-yard touchdown run, Shay Mueller’s 5-yard scoring run and Jon David Smith’s 37-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
Buenzli’s return opened the floodgates. The junior took the kick on the run, hit a hole, read his blocks and was off to the races.
“That was the spark we needed. You could look at the scoreboard and say ‘yeah, we’re OK’ but to make a play like that gave us an emotional charge to play to our ability,” Cavaliere said.
There was one sour note for Oak Ridge — an injury to quarterback Jason Samuels right before halftime. Dylan Collie, who had a solid first-half catching Samuels’ passes along with a lengthy punt return to set up Oak Ridge’s second touchdown, took over for Samuels in the second half.
“I grew up playing quarterback, played it a little bit my freshman year and have joked with coach (Mark) Watson the last couple years about playing it,” said Collie, who ran for a touchdown and passed for another in his time behind center.
After the Trojans padded their lead on Adair’s second touchdown and Collie’s 2-yard keeper, Collie showed his versatility, rolling out under pressure for a 65 -yard touchdown hook-up with Byron Spain for the 45-6 advantage.
“It was a green-27-naked,” Collie said, describing the pass he threw just before going out-of-bounds. “It’s all about the O-line — those guys did a great job.”
Friday marked the return of Xavier Lopez to the defensive line. Seeing his first action since opening night when he partially tore his patella tendon, Lopez anchored a unit that atoned for Harris’ earlier run.
“It feels amazing to be back. We came out knowing what they’d run, settled down and were very inspired — especially in the second half,” Lopez said. “This team is like a brotherhood and we take it personally when the other team scores in that manner.”
Lopez and the Oak Ridge defense, featuring Roman Andrus, James Boisd’enghien, Nick Gordon, Bobby Gatta, Brandon Herd and Zack Claiborne, stuffed the Falcon running game in the second half while Lopez and Cory Gregerson recovered fumbles.
Smith’s 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.
Troy’s victory was the first since losing to Del Oro two weeks ago. Oak Ridge had a bye last week before regrouping in Fairfield to face the Falcons.
“The Del Oro loss left a bad taste in our mouth and the last two weeks we were itching to get back on the field. A win like this is good and will get us going entering league play,” Collie said.
Collie added three receptions for 56 yards and ran four times for 25. Before his injury, Samuels was 6-of-8 passing for 90 yards. Mueller racked up 126 yards on six carries.
The Trojans celebrate homecoming Friday with a big game against Sheldon.
Stats courtesy of Haley Anderson