OAK RIDGE – Flushing Saturday night’s 19-3 loss to Dobyns-Bennett can’t happen soon enough for the Oak Ridge High School football team.
While the sting of the loss was still fresh, his players on a knee looking for direction as a gentle rain fell, Wildcats’ coach Joe Gaddis was adamant about minimizing the damage from the loss.
“Kids are resilient,” Gaddis said. “They’ll take this game to heart, but they know there’s so much out there for them.”
Three critical dropped passes which could have changed the complexion of the game, an offense that generated just 47 net yards and two first downs in the first half, and Dobyns-Bennett’s 6-foot, 197-pound bullish running back Tylar Tesnear (27 carries, 194 yards, 1 touchdown) conspired to cause the 1-1 Wildcats all sorts of problems.
“We’ll probably see faster, more elusive running backs this season,” Gaddis said. “But we aren’t going to see anybody that runs harder. We didn’t tackle well either.”
The 2-0 Indians’ defensive line obviously put a target on Oak Ridge running back Kendall Jackson. Jackson ran 17 times for 49 yards, but was stuck for negative yardage six times.
“Their defensive front controlled us all night,” said Gaddis. “We couldn’t run the ball. We couldn’t get anything going.”
Down 7-3 at halftime, Oak Ridge showed signs of life when Jackson took the first snap of the third quarter and ran 13 yards. From there, a botched assignment, a false start, a dropped pass and another incompletion ruined the drive.
“You would think we were getting something going,” Gaddis said. “It just didn’t happen.
“If we were going to win this game, we had to make the line play a stalemate. We played well enough to win on defense, but we just got controlled by their defense.”
In Gaddis’ perspective, the season starts Friday night when Campbell County travels to Oak Ridge for the region opener.
“We’ll get these kids thinking about November (playoffs),” he said. “This game won’t impact that at all, as long as we come back from it.”
Top individual plays for the Wildcats included a 55-yard run on a perfectly-executed option fake by quarterback Mitchell Gibbons. Also, Jaylen Heyward came up with an interception that ended a Dobyns-Bennett scoring drive.