Oak Ridge Wildcats

Few schools in the State of Tennessee have the winning tradition of perennial football power Oak Ridge. The history of the Wildcats includes eight State Championships and since 1973, 18…count ‘em 18 district or region titles. Oak Ridge has a 46-19 football playoffs record.

While the Wildcats may not be the juggernaut they once were, the Atomic City eleven are still a force to be reckoned with and the envy of many opponents.

Head Coach Bruce Lussier begins his fifth season as the top cat with plenty of talent to once again make a solid run to the postseason. "We are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead," said Coach Lussier. "Our young men have worked hard during off season preparations and are poised to challenge for a Region Championship!"

Oak Ridge will be tough on both sides of the football. On offense, the Ridgers have playmakers with experience at the skill positions. The biggest home run threat and back to strike terror in defensive coordinators thoughts is lightning in a bottle running back Corey Booker (5'8" 184). Booker was the first freshman to start every game at Oak Ridge. This human highlight reel is now a senior and despite missing a couple of games a year ago, still racked up 1295 yards on the ground on 152 carries. Booker averaged a mind boggling 9 yards per carry and scored 14 touchdowns. He also made 14 receptions for another 312 yards and 3 more six pointers. Oh by the way, Booker added 125 more yards on punt and kickoff returns. Needless to say recruiters will be finding their way to the Atomic City this fall and Booker is a bigtime all star candidate.

Booker is far from the only offensive threat for Oak Ridge. Sophomore Spencer Gulmire (5'10" 175) is also capable of going the distance from any point on the field. Gulmire followed in Booker's footsteps as a freshman starter last season carrying the football 69 times for 639 yards and 5 scores. Gulmire also caught 8 passes one for a touchdown. Senior Dave Thompson (5'10" 170) should get plenty of carries at running back as well.

The Wildcats must find a starting QB but a capable duo of junior Scott McMahon (6'2" 205) and talented sophomore Jarvis Washington (5'10" 155) should be able to get the job done in 2003. McMahon got valuable experience a year ago with 3 carries for 38 yards. He only completed 2 of 3 passes but two of those went for six.

Whoever wins the starting nod at QB will have senior wide receiver Dayley Thompson (6'2" 185) to throw the ball to. Thompson led the team with 16 catches and a touchdown in 2002. Those numbers should skyrocket this season. The tight end should be junior James Mitchell (6'2" 205). Mitchell snared two passes and scored a touchdown last season. Seniors Cody Cofer (5'11" 170) and Jonny Miller (5'11" 160) have experience and have excellent speed at wide receiver. Miller nabbed 13 aerials for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns while Cofer caught 8 balls for 124 yards 2 scores.

Only one starter returns to the offensive line but he is a good one. Senior Bryan Harris (6-3" 200) is a stalwart at one of the guard spots. The other positions are up for grabs and cohesiveness as a unit is a major concern for Coach Lussier. If the ‘Cats can develop a good offensive line, Oak Ridge will have no problem equaling their 26 points per game average from 2002.

Defensively, Oak Ridge has experience at linebacker and the secondary but again, the big fellas up front must come through if the Wildcats claws are to be as sharp as usual in their 50 shade alignment.

Mitchell and Gulmire are cat quick linebackers who arrive at the ball carrier in a nasty mood. They finished one-two in tackles last season. Mitchell totaled 140 stops and picked off three interceptions while Gulmire was there for 111 total tackles including two sacks, two "oskies" and a fumble recovery.

A revamped defensive line will feature senior Jared Stevens (6'3" 220) and Harris at end. Stevens finished with 45 total hits and led the team with 7 QB sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. Harris totaled 10 tackles in limited action last season. The Wildcats are in need of finding some beef at tackle.

The secondary should be one of the best in East Tennessee! Strong safety Adam Black (5'8" 165) plays like a madman! This kid is one of the biggest hitters in the area as he made 96 stops a season ago. The senior snared 3 interceptions returning two for touchdowns and is basically a menace to opposing offenses. Miller and Cofer are outstanding cornerbacks. Miller had 3 "oskies" and broke up 12 passing attempts while Cofer batted down three attempts, recovered a fumble and totaled 12 tackles. Senior Grant Henry (5'9" 165) should be the free safety. Henry had an interception and two pass break ups in 2002.

Oak Ridge will be a Region 2 "toughie" once again. Before the team walks down "Wildcat Crossing" to Blankenship Field, they also take a Walk of Champions while the home throng of fans enjoys a large tailgate party outside Jack Armstrong Stadium. If they can find enough big fellas up front on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats will sing the fight song in victory after plenty of games this fall and find themselves in the familiar postseason in 2003!

TNPrepSports.com Prediction: 8-2

Playoff Contender: Yes

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