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by Mike Finnerty (firstname.lastname@example.org
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Whether it was on offense or on defense, the Oak Ridge Trojans played a complete game on Saturday against the Burbank Titans.
Credit a 17-point second quarter for Oak Ridge, plus the work of a suffocating defense, and both contributed mightily to a long afternoon for host Burbank.
The result, a 24-6 victory for Oak Ridge, something head coach Eric Cavaliere did not expect with the type of running game that Burbank possessed.
"When you're playing a team that rushes for 547 (yards) a game, you're trying to contain their run," said Cavaliere. "That was a huge focus for us, trying to get them into passing situations early, and we were able to that and it made a big difference for us."
The win sends Oak Ridge into Friday night's Division I Sac-Joaquin section championship at Sacramento State University where the Trojans will square off against the Granite Bay Grizzlies, the defending Division I champion.
The game quickly got out of hand in the second quarter when Oak Ridge quarterback Jason Samuels threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Ross Dwelley (six catches, 66 yards), and 25-yard touchdown pass to Byron Spain, for a 14-0 lead with 3:06 left in the quarter.
Oak Ridge extended the lead to 17-0 on a Ryan Lamb 26-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining in the half, making it a 17-point advantage at the midway mark.
"We started off the game the way we needed to," said Cavaliere. "We were getting stops on defense, able to move the ball on offense, had a turnover early that paid off for points for us, it was a great start for us."
In the third quarter, Oak Ridge running back Blake Martin (12 carries, 50 yards) scored on a six-yard touchdown run for a 24-0 advantage, essentially putting the game out of reach.
Martin, as well as running backs Josh Wellman (17 carries, 46 yards) and Tanner Hughes (nine carries, 51 yards), combined for 146 yards on 40 carries which kept drives alive and kept the Burbank offense off the field.
Despite a Ernest Jenkins to Calvin Green 39-yard, third quarter touchdown pass for the Titans, the Oak Ridge defense controlled the Burbank offense the entire game.
Leading the way for the Trojans' defense was senior linebacker Zack Claiborne who recorded five sacks on the afternoon and 25 for the season.
"Zack is a beast," said Cavaliere. "He just has a motor that won't quit - just plays football, we're very thankful to have him."
After the game, a quiet and humble Claiborne kept it simple.
"We just bonded like brothers, came out, and stopped them."
Samuels, who finished with 143 yards on 13 of 22 passing, gave credit to his entire team.
"It was just a great team win for us. Our defense played amazing. Held them to something 50 yards rushing. Zack had five sacks, I wasn't sacked today, our offensive line played amazing, it was just a great team win."
Oak Ridge will be making it's first appearance in a section championship game since 2004, and it's first ever appearance in a Division I section championship.
Said Samuels, "We're on a mission. Obviously we're happy with this game, but we're going to turn the page to Granite Bay."