By Cody Holliday
Sometimes numbers are deceiving. When a team has seven turnovers, the final score is usually a runaway.
Not so Friday.
Amid momentum swings and big plays, host Oak Ridge stayed within striking distance of a win but unfortunately the Trojans’ last-minute drive ended with their final turnover of the night — allowing the Sheldon Huskies to come away with the 28-23 Delta River League win.
“Every time we needed the ball our defense really came up with a play tonight,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “It says a lot about the guys and their heart that with all the mistakes we made, we still had a chance to pull it out late.”
After a Roman Andrus fumble recovery, Trojan quarterback Dylan Collie found Lance Berringer with 4:41 left in the game on an 18-yard touchdown hook-up. Trailing by five points, Oak Ridge’s defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back only to see the offense turn it over on Collie’s fifth fumble of the evening.
The Trojan defense held yet again to force another Husky punt with 1:20 remaining. With a chance to rally the team, Collie moved the offense to midfield with under 30 seconds left but forced to the air, Collie’s pass was picked off by Ben Alickovic to seal the win.
“We had several chances to put together an offensive drive to put the game away and we didn’t,” Sheldon coach Josh Crabtree said. “Oak Ridge is a well-coached team and any time you come away with a win over them, you earned it. They just kept coming right back at us — another five minutes on the clock and who knows what happens. I’m real glad though there wasn’t more time.”
Sheldon wasted little time in finding the end zone early in the game. Taking advantage of Troy’s first-play fumble, Davon Chapple hit Nate Iese on a 30-yard touchdown strike. Oak Ridge came right back as Preston Dean carried six times for 65 yards on the Trojans’ 13-play drive to the Husky 1-yard line but Antonio Perez recovered a costly Trojan fumble to keep the home team off the board.
“If either team doesn’t make the mistakes they made tonight, it’s not even a close game,” Crabtree said. “It was a physical game and I thought we kept their big plays to a minimum. We knew they would run the ball and when they needed to pass we didn’t let them get into the open field.”
After a Sheldon drive that ended in a missed field goal, Oak Ridge used a 10-play, 80-yard drive to get on the scoreboard. Collie’s 32 yard run was key and John David Smith’s 30-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3.
One of the game’s first momentum swings came on the next Husky possession as Jake Rosada blocked Sheldon’s punt to give the Trojans the ball at the 9- yard line. Three plays later, Collie found Dean on a 3-yard connection and a 10-7 Trojan advantage. Things turned worse for the Huskies when, on their ensuing drive, Bobby Gatta intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
“We definitely had our chances tonight,” Cavaliere said. “We gave up a couple long balls and our turnovers created points for them (Sheldon). We have all the pieces as a team to win. We just have to work on eliminating the mistakes. We do that, I know this is a team that’s capable of winning out.”
Momentum shifted right back to the Huskies on their next possession as Fernando Meza took a handoff and raced 80 yards for the score, cutting the Trojans’ lead to 17-14. After punting on their next offensive series, Oak Ridge regained possession as Rosada picked off another Husky pass. The good fortune was short-lived though as the Trojans fumbled to the Huskies’ Iese who recovered and returned it 6o yards for a score.
“There were several swings of momentum for both teams tonight,” Crabtree said. “The fumble return was huge going into the half. I’m happy with the win tonight and have a lot of respect for Oak Ridge. They’re one good program.”
Troy’s second possession of the second half ended with a fumbled snap and led to Sheldon’s Joshua Hadley scoring from 2 yards out to up the lead to 28-17.
“We had several scoring opportunities and we came away empty,” Cavaliere said. “Our kids were physical and we ran the ball well. Our mistakes just hurt us.”
Dean led the Trojans with 156 yards on 26 carries. Collie added 10 carries for 67 yards. Collie also added 40 yards on 4-of-13 passing with two touchdowns.