CARMICHAEL — Preston Dean shot the gap for a sack of Jesuit quarterback Thomas Sperbeck with 4:47 left Saturday, sealing Oak Ridge High’s hard-fought 14-3 Delta River League victory over the host Marauders.
Dean’s key play was one of many turned in by the Trojan defense. Interceptions by Matt Howard, Brandon Herd, Jake Rosada and Ben Sweet all helped deny the pass-oriented Jesuit attack that relied heavily on Sperbeck’s right arm and the running of Cameron Todd and Patrick Barrientes.
“The Jesuit quarterback is very talented and his ability to throw and run was the focus of our game plan but also … we didn’t underestimate No. 22 (Todd),” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “Our defense played very well and the secondary stepped up and played its best game. They’re really a coachable group that studied the film and stayed ahead of Jesuit.”
Troy’s sixth overall win and second in league ensured the team of a playoff slot. A victory next Friday at Folsom earns a home game for Oak Ridge.
Dean’s key sack on Sperbeck allowed the Trojans to run out the clock as the offensive line paved the way for running backs Shay Mueller, Jake Rosada and Dean, who combined to move the chains to the very end. Two knees inside Jesuit’s 10-yard line ended it.
“It was fourth-and-long. I saw the quarterback break the pocket and I just locked on him and did what I could do,” Dean said of his threat-ending play. “Credit goes to the D-Line, which had good penetration and our safeties, especially Bobby Gatta, who played well all afternoon.”
Although Gatta didn’t snag one of Sperbeck’s throws he disrupted his share along with clogging the end on Marauder sweeps. At times Oak Ridge pressured Sperbeck as linemen Roman Andrus and Zack Claiborne came from the edges and Xavier Lopez and Jacob Proul from the middle.
Saturday’s game was physical. Trojan quarterback Dylan Collie didn’t finish after taking on a Jesuit linebacker in the third quarter. He was involved in several other hard tackles before Sean O’Donnell took over for the final series in the fourth.
“It’s the same (for a quarterback) as a wide receiver going over the middle. Sometimes you have to give it to them (defenders) at times. Unfortunately it was a bit of a hard shot but you’re going to have to hold me down to keep me off the field next week,” Collie said. “It’s something that happens and we felt comfortable at that point of the game (late fourth quarter) to give me some rest.”
Collie beat Jesuit’s corner around the right end for a 56-yard touchdown run with 8:56 left in the second quarter to open the scoring. Jon David Smith added the extra point.
“I was thinking all last night and this morning about making one big play,” said Collie, who credited Cody Frakes’ pulling block as key to getting around the corner.
Herd’s 55-yard interception return 4:57 before the half led to Dean’s 4-yard touchdown run and David Smith’s point after for a 14-0 lead. The Marauders answered with a 43-yard field goal to send the teams into halftime with Oak Ridge on top 14-3.
“We were in a man coverage and I read the receiver who did a hitch. But I stepped in front of him for the catch,” Herd said. “We watched a lot of film on them and our playoff chances depended on winning this game.”
Oak Ridge (6-3, 2-2) dug in defensively early in the third quarter as the Marauder offense enjoyed good field position on several consecutive series. Collie had Troy on the move on Oak Ridge’s first possession but a 51-yard touchdown hookup to Lance Berringer was wiped away due to a penalty.
Rosada’s pick closed the third quarter and Sweet’s came midway into the fourth when he came back to grab Sperbeck’s fluttering, under-thrown pass to the midfield.
The Trojans fumbled the ball back, their second of the game, with 6:05 to go but Dean dropped Sperbeck on fourth down to allow Oak Ridge to kill the clock. Trojan linemen Blake Mize, Frakes, Boule, Hekoti Chapman and Tuita Chapman led the charge downfield as Troy’s runners took O’Donnell’s handoffs to cover the real estate.
Dean ran for 82 yards on 13 carries; Mueller picked up 58 yards on a dozen rushes; and Collie had 54 yards on 11 attempts.
The Oak Ridge JV won 28-14.
Stats courtesy of Haley Anderson