ELK GROVE — Defense and three touchdown passes from quarterback Ian Book to wide receiver Justin Priest keyed Oak Ridge’s 21-13 win over Franklin in a nonleague football game at Cosumnes Oaks High Friday.
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Trojan linebacker James Portilla’s interception and fumble recovery set the defensive tone in the first quarter. The fumble recovery at the Wildcats’ 19 yard line led to Book (15-of-31, 172 yards) throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Priest in the corner of the end zone with 2:52 left to take a 7-0 lead. Ryan Lamb’s extra-point boot sailed through the uprights.
“Our defense had their backs up against the wall quite a bit tonight,” Oak Ridge head coach Eric Cavaliere said. “We just kept fighting and scratching and when we needed a play, we got a play.”
Cavaliere has been impressed with the growth of Portilla, who is a senior.
“Last year, he was a fourth string defensive back,” said Cavaliere of Portilla, who had 13 tackles in the game. “We moved him to linebacker and he started getting better. He earned himself a starting position. I’m proud of James.”
Oak Ridge (3-0) wasted little time to take a 14-0 lead at the start of the second quarter. Priest pulled in a 66-yard pass from Book, and then outran a Wildcats’ defensive back to the end zone.
“It was a perfect play,” Priest said.
“Justin is a phenomenal wide receiver. The guy just gets open, makes catches and makes plays. He’s an excellent route runner and great blocker. He’s the real deal; the full package,” Cavaliere said
Franklin was not rattled by Oak Ridge’s early lead, but had no answers to stopping the Book-to-Priest connection.
“We’re not going to (get rattled),” Franklin head coach Mike Johnson said. “Our defense has played well this entire year. This (game) will make us a better football team.”
Franklin scored its first touchdown in the second quarter. Running back Robert Sanders scored on a 2-yard run with 4:31 left to trim Oak Ridge’s lead to 14-7.
After a scoreless third quarter, Oak Ridge and Franklin (2-1) scored a touchdown each in the fourth quarter. Thanks to a fumble recovery from Trojan linebacker Ryan Sullivan at the Wildcats’ 22 yard line, the Trojans increased their lead to 21-7 two plays later when Book found Priest (10 receptions, 128 yards) again, this time in the middle of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown with 10:54 left to play.
Franklin found the end zone once on its final offensive drive with 2:45 left when quarterback Lamar Jackson hit Jabarri Johnson on a 6-yard pass.
Cavaliere applauded his Trojans’ efforts for staying the course from start to finish in this big game between two of the top Sacramento Division I schools that have played major roles in the playoffs in recent years. Oak Ridge and Franklin combined for a 24-3 record last year.
“Our guys never wavered,” Cavaliere said. “They kept confident. They kept playing. We’ve got a lot of growing up to do, and we’re growing up quickly. Those guys are continuing to get better. The sky’s the limit with that group.”
Oak Ridge finished with 229 total offensive yards; 172 in the air and 57 on the ground. Trojan linebackers Thomas Mahlman and Trent Muenzil had 16 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.