SACRAMENTO — Containing an explosive, run-oriented offense on one side of the ball and producing enough points on the other, Oak Ridge handled Burbank 24-6 Saturday at Titan Stadium.
With the Sac-Joaquin Division I semifinal playoff win, the Trojans (12-1) return to the section title game for the first time since their 2004 victory over Del Oro. Oak Ridge’s opponent in its quest for its first D-I banner will be Granite Bay in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals won by the Grizzlies.
Still smarting after Troy gave Burbank its last loss to open the 2011 postseason, the Titans wanted revenge Saturday but didn’t come close to the two-point margin (30-28) that separated the two a year ago. Oak Ridge controlled both lines of scrimmage and thus the outcome to saddle undefeated Burbank (12-1) with its first — and only — loss of the season.
Owning one of the state’s leading ground games, the Titans never got going thanks to the Trojan starting front line of Jacob Proul, Chandler Christy, Zack Claiborne and Elijah English with help from the linebackers and secondary. Oak Ridge also registered eight sacks to thwart Burbank quarterback Ernest Jenkins.
“It’s really a front seven. Coach (Darren) Jonutz had a phenomenal plan that the (defensive) unit executed,” Trojan coach Eric Cavaliere said. “They’re (Titans) a tough team to defend but the kids focused on their job, trusted each other and got it done. Our challenge was to hold their run game in check and the key was first down — holding them to a yard to force them into second/third down and long.”
Fittingly, Claiborne dropped Jenkins for a loss to end the game. Claiborne, who came in second in the state for sacks (20.5), was unofficially credited with five more Saturday and likely moves to the top of the leader board.
“We just wanted to make it to the section championship game so we went out and worked our butts off and brought it,” said Claiborne who often had to contend with a double-team.
On the other side of the ball the Oak Ridge line of Proul, Hekoti Chapman, Tuita Chapman, Kareem Ballal and Cory Gregersen kept Troy quarterback Jason Samuels (13-of-22, 143 yards) upright all 48 minutes despite the efforts of Ngalu Tapa, one of Claiborne’s chief competitors in the sacks race.
After a scoreless first quarter, Oak Ridge drew first blood. Claiborne’s fourth-down tackle that stopped Jenkins just shy of a first down at midfield set up Samuels for a 50-yard, 11-play drive that culminated with Samuels’ roll-out and 5-yard scoring toss to a wide open Ross Dwelley in the end zone. Ryan Lamb’s point after made it 7-0.
“It all starts with the O-Line. They gave Jason time, he threw a good ball and I caught it,” Dwelley said. “Taking the first lead gave us the momentum and killed theirs.”
Samuels’ 25-yard end zone connection to Byron Spain on a corner route staked the visitor’s lead to 14-0 and Trent Buenzli’s fumble recovery led to Lamb’s 26-yard field goal as the Trojans went to halftime ahead 17-0.
Oak Ridge held the Titans to start the third quarter and extended after Justin Priest’s 9-yard punt return started an eight-play drive featuring Samuels finding Priest for 11 yards and Dwelley for 18. Following the left side of his line, Blake Martin went in from 6 yards out to make it a 24-0 score.
Martin’s slashing style, Tanner Hughes’ power game and Josh Wellman’s fluid running complimented Samuels’ aerial attack. The trio combined to rush for 147 yards to keep the chains moving.
Burbank answered as blown coverage allowed Calvin Green to sneak up the middle for a 39-yard catch-and-run for the touchdown. The Titans got the ball back quickly looking for more but Jenkins’ next pass slipped through Keith Marcus’ hands and into the grasp of Jacob Sipes for an interception with 2:39 left in the third.
Troy’s lead forced Jenkins to the air and Burbank out of its comfort zone the remainder of the game. Oak Ridge pressure repeatedly put Jenkins on the move when he wasn’t getting dumped behind the line of scrimmage.
“The whole week we trained so hard and knew we had to come out and make a statement,” Proul said. “To shut them out in the first half shows our improvement. Everyone knows we’re a second-half defensive team but to stop them in the first two quarters says a lot.”
Troy’s ball-control offense consumed yards and the clock as Oak Ridge used time management to get to the finish line for a date with Granite Bay.