Wildcats claw Patriots

OAK RIDGE – Oak Ridge and Jefferson County used to be a heated rivalry, with the Patriots winning the first five games of the series. Since then, the Oak Ridge program has remained steady, while the Patriots have fallen on hard times.

That was evident Friday night as the Patriots visited Blankenship Field for homecoming … and turned into the typical homecoming opponent, losing to the Wildcats 48-7.

Playing without heralded running back Christian McFall, Jefferson County fell behind early and didn't have the horsepower to mount a comeback. Oak Ridge scored 14 points in the first quarter, 21 in the second quarter and then cruised to the non-region victory.

Paul Bingham for Oak Ridge had a career night, scoring four touchdowns on the ground and rushing for 112 yards on 16 carries. Connor Gulmire looked more like the returning all-state performer he was billed as, throwing for 209 yards on nine completions and two touchdowns. Both of those touchdowns came to scintillating sophomore Damarcus Rogers. Rogers caught a 45-yard strike to open the scoring, and then backed that up with a 67-yard score as the second quarter was winding down.

The best news for Oak Ridge was the lack of turnovers. While there was one time the Ridgers laid it on the ground, they recovered that one. They had no interceptions and no fumbles, something that has haunted the in every game this season. The penalties were still a factor as Oak Ridge had eight for 44 yards.

Jefferson County was led in rushing by Will Brooks. The big fullback pounded for 63 yards on 17 carries and was followed by Jonathan Yeary's 60 yards. Quarterback Spencer Gatlin rambled 29 yards on six attempts and accounted for the lone Patriot touchdown, when he connected with Tyler Stepp on a six-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Gatlin was 13 for 22 on the night with two picks and 124 yards. His top receiver was Nick Sherrod, who had five receptions.

Looking Ahead

Jefferson County returns to region competition this week, traveling to Karns.

The Beavers have yet to win a game this season, after losing to rival Halls last Thursday 24-14. Jefferson County finds themselves in fourth place in Region 1-5A, behind Dobyns Bennett, Sevier County and Bearden. The Patriots can still make the playoffs, with the game against Science Hill shaping up to be an important one. That contest will be Oct. 6 in Jefferson County, with the winner probably nailing down the final playoff spot in the region.

Oak Ridge goes on the road this Friday night, taking on McMinn County down in Athens. The Cherokees are 2-3 on the year, but possess one of the better running backs in East Tennessee. It should be a good road test for the Wildcats.

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