Trojans hit hard with 26-point loss in key game
NICK BARNETT stands alone on the field during a game earlier in the season. Mother Lode News photo by Shelly Thorene
Mother Lode News correspondent
ELK GROVE — It was billed as a classic. Oak Ridge, steeped in tradition and sporting a superb air attack versus Pleasant Grove, boasting one of the Sac Joaquin section best running backs. It was also a key Delta River League game, as both teams still have Folsom left on the schedule and playoffs are just two weeks away.
As the final seconds ticked away, Pleasant Grove moved a bit closer to a DRL title with a convincing 49-3 win over the stunned Oak Ridge Trojans.
“Tonight was just a old fashioned butt whooping,’ said Oak Ridge head coach Eric Cavaliere. “Pleasant Grove is a great team. They beat us on every level, offense, defense and special teams.”
For those watching the opening quarter it looked like Oak Ridge would show the Eagles they were ready to contend in the DRL race, as Troy twice forced turnovers on the Eagles first two possessions. A fumble on the opening kick ended with a Trojan punt seven plays later. The Eagles second possession ended with Bobby Braman’s interception at midfield. Three plays later John David Smith split the uprights for a Trojan three point lead.
From there it was all Pleasant Grove. Behind Mark Jenkins 212 yards rushing and four touchdowns the Eagles scored seemingly at will.
“We came off the bus a lot more ready to play tonight,” said Cavaliere. “ We just couldn’t get anything going. Pleasant Grove did a great job getting pressure up front and you cant throw the ball when you cant run it.”
After Troy took the early lead the Eagles ran off 21 unanswered points as Jenkins tallied two of the scores, repeatedly ripping off huge runs through the Oak Ridge defense. When it did have the ball on offense, a swarming defensive effort by the Eagles forced the Trojans into three three-and-out first half possessions.
“Oak Ridge is a great team, very well coached,” said Pleasant Grove head coach Joe Cattolico. “ Our guys played their rears off, I’m very proud of their effort.”
Down 18 at the half the Trojans offense could never get in gear. A blocked punt on their first possession of the second half led to a Jenkins touchdown. The Trojans next four possessions ended with two punts and two interceptions.
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” said Cavaliere. “ Offensively we just couldn’t get anything going. We couldn’t run the ball. We never could get our feet set throwing it either.”
Jordan Matanane, averaging 145 yards a game, was held to 70 on 18 carries. The normally prolific Will Tostenson to Willie Tucker connection was held to one catch for six yards.
Pleasant Grove tallied three more second half scores to put the game out of reach and set up their showdown with Folsom next week, the DRL title hanging in the balance.
“It seems the past three or four years, its us and Folsom late in the year with the title on the line,” said Cattolico. “We’ve got a huge challenge in front of us, we have to be ready on all levels.”
Huddled as a team after the game, the mindset quickly changed from the lopsided loss to a more pressing need.
Despite a 6-2 record the Trojans have just one DRL win. To make the playoffs teams need at least two league wins. With home games against Jesuit and Folsom, the Trojans playoff hopes rest on winning one of those games.
“These last two games are very important and we have to be ready Friday night against Jesuit,” said Cavaliere. “ We don’t want to be playing in week 10 trying to make it (to the playoffs), we’d like to take care of it in week nine.”
Ryan Adams finished with 18 yards rushing and Shay Mueller added 24 on the Trojans final possession. Will Tostenson added 33 yards on eight of 19 passing. Six of those passes went to Dylan Collie for 31 yards.