War Eagles Outlast Tigers, Lightning, and Rain to Move to 7-0

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Sophomore quarterback Braden Letney and the undefeated Oak Ridge High School football team took care of business at Moorhead Stadium Friday night, toppling the Conroe Tigers 41-18 in a lightning delayed game that did not conclude until 11:35 p.m.

Letney scored on long runs of 57 and 64 yards and threw two scoring strikes of 58 and 25 yards to Demarcus Durst and Jamarcus Durst respectively in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.

Conroe (4-4, 1-3) QB Stedman Bell put Conroe on the board first with a 37-yard scamper but the failed kick made it 6-0 at 9:41 of the first quarter. Oak Ridge (7-0, 3-0) didn’t flinch as 1:52 seconds later Letney hit Durst with his first TD pass and with Patrick Coale’s successful extra point kick, the War Eagles led 7-6.

The talented Bell then connected with wideout Bryce Harrison on a 48-yard scoring pass 58 seconds later and Conroe was back out in front. Conroe went for two but Oak Ridge made the stop and the Tigers were up 12-7.

Early in the second quarter, Oak Ridge took the lead again as Kwame Etwi carved a path through the Conroe secondary and 23 yards later he was in the end zone. Oak Ridge went for two but the run failed and it was 13-12 War Eagles at 9:50 of the second quarter.

The Oak Ridge defense made two more stops as they were starting to solve Bell. The War Eagle offense then rewarded their counterparts as with 2:04 remaining in the half, Letney, on a keeper knifed through the Conroe defense on a 57-yard journey to paydirt. Coale’s kick made it 20-12.

At halftime the lightning started making its appearance and with constant delays the second half did not get started until 10:25 p.m. after a 10-minute warm up.

On Oak Ridge’s first possession of the second half on a third-and-four, Letney called his own number again on an option read that everyone in the stadium thought would go to fullback Justin Edwards. The sophomore QB had everyone fooled as he kept the pigskin and raced 64 yards for his second rushing TD of the evening. Coale’s extra point made it 27-12 with just 48 seconds gone in the third quarter.

Conroe was not backing down as Bell led his charges right down the field on a drive that concluded with the QB running the ball in from 23 yards. The two-point conversion pass failed and the score was 27-18 at 8:19 of the third quarter.

Oak Ridge outside linebacker Clayton Grett took matters into his own hands on Conroe’s next possession after the Tigers defensive unit made a stop. On a second-and-long play, Bell aired a pass out in the flat that Harrison caught but then was immediately popped by Grett jarring the ball loose. On third down, Bell went back to pass and Grett was in the backfield before the Conroe QB could react and was sacked inside their own 20-yard line.

Oak Ridge’s next possession resulted in a 25-yard scoring strike from Letney to Jamarcus Durst at the end of the third quarter. With Coale’s extra point, Oak Ridge led 34-18.

The War Eagles concluded the game’s scoring as Etwi ran one in from four yards out. Coale’s kick was good and at a little before midnight, the game was finally over.

Letney was 4-5 passing for 118 yards and two TD’s. He also led the team in rushing to the tune of six rushes for 144 yards and two TD’s. Etwi ran the ball 11 times for 45 yards and two TD’s. Jamarcus Durst caught three aerials for 53 yards and a TD as Demarcus Durst caught one for 58 yards and a TD.

Conroe’s Bell had a monster night going 16-for-22 through the air for 227 yards and a TD and ran for 186 yards on 29 carries and two TD’s. Bryce Harrison caught five balls for 88 yards and a TD.

Oak Ridge head coach Dereck Rush, after being asked what his team can do better, said, “I expect us to play a total game… playing four quarters. On defense, we probably just saw one of the best quarterbacks we’ll see all season so we have to continue to make plays all game long.

“On offense, we’ve got to be more consistent in moving the ball up the field and catch the football and be fundamentally sound. On special teams, we’ve got to continue to do what we do and remain consistent. We’re taking it one game at a time and right now we’re focusing on A&M Consolidated.”

Oak Ridge hosts A&M Consolidated next Friday night at Moorhead Stadium. Game time 7:30 p.m.

WORTHY OF NOTE:

DEFENSE: Do you remember last year when Oak Ridge seemed to be playing against a team with a mobile QB every week?

Although Oak Ridge won only one of those games, the hard work and experience is now paying dividends for the War Eagle defense. Conroe signal caller, Stedman Bell is the best QB Oak Ridge has faced in 17 games. On Friday night, Bell had success at everything he tried in the beginning stages of the game. If you weren’t at the game, his overall game numbers would lead you to believe he did anything he wanted for the duration of the evening. However, after the coaches lit into the defensive unit pleading for them to stop somebody, the defense was able to limit Bell’s damage enough for the potent Oak Ridge offense to pull away from Conroe. Much of the defense’s success can be attributed to the War Eagle coaching staff making key adjustments. Not the least of which was having Bell shadowed in key situations forcing the Tigers to show any depth they may have on their roster. If you were there, you saw that Conroe is not tremendously deep. Lets not forget what experience can do for a team though. Last year’s hard work against a bunch of Gazelle-like QB’s brought back negative memories to the Oak Ridge defense. If you’re like most humans and you judge people by what they have done for you lately…then lately Oak Ridge has a pretty damn good defense.

DEFENSE 2: The offense scored 41 points and their average weekly output isn’t too far from that number. Again, if you’re a couch potato and you only read the paper for results and never watch a game, you’re thinking the defense doesn’t have to do a heck of a lot for Oak Ridge to win a game. Well, then get this you emaciated stay at home recluse’s…if it wasn’t for the War Eagle defense creating good field position for the offense against our friends from the north, the game would have been three TD’s closer and those of us who braved the ridiculous weather would have been biting our nails.

FANS: Speaking of brave fans. Although next week’s game against A&M Consolidated at Moorhead will be considered a home game, when Oak Ridge plays against Conroe there it is an away game. War Eagle fans have to make the 15 mile trek to Conroe suffering through construction traffic and you would think Oak Ridge attendance numbers would dwindle.

Couple that with the weather and perhaps no one would have been at the game when it concluded at 11:35pm. Well, Oak Ridge fans trashed that theory because War Eagle fans outnumbered Conroe fans four to one when the game ended.

AND… if it wasn’t for Conroe’s Golden Girls it would have been six to one. Simply put, Oak Ridge fans are awesome!

Just do me a favor, in monsoon like conditions you need to drive safely and “arrive alive”. The way some of you drive you’d think the Woodlands/Conroe stretch of highway was the Daytona Speedway. Dallas Harden will give you a ticket no matter what team you support… shhh… just in case, if you get stopped by a bald guy, it’s probably him so wear an I love Oak Ridge Athletics shirt all the time. It just may save you a couple hundred dollars.

Do you remember Braden Letney’s second long TD run where I indicated (WOL game story) he fooled everyone in the stadium by not handing off to fullback, Justin Edwards? I lied… I was standing next to Super Fan and ORHS Football Booster club hierarchist Billy Lowe and he called it before the play was even run. Apparently, Billy goes to all of Coach Dereck Rush’s chalk talks and can see the future. I’m standing there on the sidelines with Mr Construction Helmet and as Letney options to himself, Lowe looks at me and says, “Voila”. Love that guy. Anytime you have a grown man wearing a construction helmet on a high school sideline, you know you have a true fan. Incidentally, the hard hat thing has been going on at Oak Ridge going back to the 90’s at least.

There’s a good story on it and we’ll dedicate a whole article to it soon.

Clayton Grett is an insane high school football player. When he made those two huge defensive plays, it changed the whole complexion of the game from it being in doubt to Oak Ridge is going to win. If you were paying attention, the next play was a Conroe punt. Not surprisingly, Grett is on special teams because… well because you want maniacs on the field and he just happens to be one. On that punt, Grett got in a car crash with a Conroe player. Special teams car crashes happen all the time but this one ended in both players being knocked out cold. Thankfully, they are both okay. Thankfully for us, we get to watch Grett play every week sacrificing his body for the benefit of ORHS football.

DEFENSE 3: This just in, Defensive Coordinator Croley, who commands from on high the booth upstairs during games is doing a great job and was a good player back in the day. Included in his Oak Ridge duties are coaching JV softball. You can add in enthusiastic as well. He might not look like it now but he was quite the spark plug 75 pounds ago. An East Texas source informed me that while coaching a practice one hot summer day, he became so excited with one of his charges doing so well that he jumped up as high as Croley can jump and came back down and rolled his ankle. He then hobbled around like one of the Vinatieri kicking brothers did after making an important field goal. If anyone has film of that practice, please forward here. We like enthusiastic coaches who sacrifice their own bodies for the good of the team.

Plus, we could use a laugh at times.

C’MON MAN:

1) Moorhead concessions doesn’t take Credit Cards. Let’s get out of the dark ages, Conroe. C’MONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN, MAN!!!!

2) Two athletic trainers said no when I asked if I could have a bite of popcorn. C’MONNN. Man!!

3) I wore green by mistake and the Principal, Tommy Johnson reprimanded me saying if I do it again I’ll have Saturday detention. C’MON MANNNN!!!!

4) QB Norton threw a beautiful pass to Handy, who had run the most perfect route. Great pass, great route… and Handy dropped the ball. Lets not take this the wrong way… Handy is an excellent football player and his not making that catch was the very definition of an anomaly and no one feels worse than Handy. However, C’Mon Man.

North Vs South: During the game, I noticed that Moorhead had some improvements made since I’d been there such as new turf and scoreboard.

After Woodforest was built, the district scratched the South’s back a bit by making some upgrades to Moorhead.

Historically, those in the north side of the district feel that they have received the short end of the stick in everything to include athletics and politics. Just play football and shut up!!

BAND: Oak Ridge band Melaphone musician, Dusty Calhoun is our Oak Ridge high school band member of the week. It kind of looks like a silver trumpet because I know you were wondering.

GOLDEN GIRLS: Conroe’s version of the Liberty Belles had an awesome halftime routine. Of course, our Liberty Belle’s are always awesome but we give credit when it is due even if the opposition is involved.

ROWDIE RUNNERS: These athletes run the flags back and forth after Oak Ridge scores and some other reasons, too. This just in, Oak Ridge scores a lot and these people are getting in shape.

WAR EAGLE COMPOSURE: Those who didn’t go to the game and those who left missed out on Oak Ridge class. A few of the Conroe players started playing dirty in the second half. At certain points it was downright ugly and painful to watch.

It was just a few and not the whole team. Oak Ridge players did not bite and sucked it up and just watched Conroe rack up penalties and one player did get ejected. Grett made sure to walk over to me and suggest that I not write that the whole Conroe team is dirty. He knows many of them and they are good guys and he said just a few ruin it for everyone else.

ZEBRAS: The refs did an awesome officiating job keeping the game under control.

COREY HARPER: Defensive standout, Harper sacked Bell on a big third down play giving the Tigers a 4th and 14. Harper has been hobbled all season but has made his presence known and is healthy for the stretch drive. That’s quite the good thing.

RILEY MCKNIGHT: He continues to give Oak Ridge good fielding position returning punts.

REAL SEASON: Guess what? Oak Ridge is 7-0 and have their three toughest games coming up. If they take at least one, they will have a very winnable first round playoff game.

Yeah, I know… Any playoff game will be winnable for this crew but they can make it easier on themselves if they continue to play better like they have every game this season. Oak Ridge is playing at a level conducive to having a real good chance to win all three of their remaining games.

MOORHEAD… FRIDAY AT 7:30 VS A&M CONSOLIDATED! BE THERE!!!

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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