“Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” – Tom Cruise, Cocktail
The 2013 football season for the Oak Ridge War Eagles came to an abrupt end Thursday night, as they dropped a bi-district playoff game to Aldine Westfield 52-21. Oak Ridge finished the season at 7-4, while the No. 4 Westfield Mustangs moved on to the next round of the playoffs with an 11-0 record.
The Mustangs were just too big, too fast, and too good Thursday night, breaking off some spectacular plays in 3rd-and-long situations, including a 94-yard run by Rayquan Jones and a 65-yard TD run by Latevious Downs.
Though the War Eagles were down quickly (35-7 with six minutes to go in the 2nd quarter), they never gave up. In the first drive of the second half, the team executed on 4th and long multiple times, including a successful fake punt. Oak Ridge Coach Dereck Rush was still calling timeouts late in the game to close as much of the scoring gap as possible. They even tried an onside kick with less than a minute remaining, down 31.
The last time the War Eagles made the playoffs, the game was personified by three personal fouls on a single play in a losing effort. Thursday’s game provided quite the contrast to days gone by, as Oak Ridge character and composure was on display through out the game (and through out the season). Coaches and players reached down deep and gave their all until the final whistle blew. You could not ask for a better effort against a superior team.
BOTTOM LINE: 7-4 is a whole lot better than 1-9. This team has come a long, long way. Coaches and players all deserve a huge helping of praise, as they worked their tails off last spring, during the offseason workouts, through hot summer practices, and then against an array of difficult opponents.
RILEY MCKNIGHT: McKnight was thrust into the starting QB role under center with Braden Letney and Jacob Norton out suffering a broken ankle and concussion, respectively. He took the majority of the snaps and played very well, showing us all he can lead. 18-27 for 156 yards is very respectable against Westfield’s defense. Also, he threw some pinpoint aerials that were dropped so his numbers should have looked even better. His scrambling was eye opening. If you go back to the days of Fran Tarkenton, that’s what Riley looked like. Both Tarkenton and McKnight are good athletes that can throw on the run.
COACH DERECK RUSH: Rush pulled several plays out of the unused playbook and threw the used one away. I had visions of yesteryear playing sandlot football when we’d be in the huddle drawing plays with our fingers in the dirt. Several times we saw Oak Ridge run plays we hadn’t seen yet. In playing one of the best defense’s in the state he and his staff, including offensive coordinator Will Compton, had to be creative and it shows how flexible they are. This will definitely benefit the team on down the line.
SPECIAL TEAMS: This unit has done well all season long. The fake punt and onside kick were huge against Westfield but if you were to grade special teams on the night, they would get a passing grade only because of the fake punt and onside kick.
MICHAEL ANGELETTI: TOUCHDOWN!!!! Michael’s a senior and he caught a TD pass in his last game. He will remember this for the rest of his life.
OFFENSE: 21 points is the second most (Klein Collins-31) point total Westfield has given up. However, a Javione Murphy-Jones fumble recovery and TD is credited to the defense. Still, 21 points is pretty impressive for the War Eagles against a juggernaut like Westfield.
PROGNOSTICATORS: NO ONE outside of Oak Ridge’s football program thought the War Eagles would win seven games. N-O-B-O-D-Y!!!! That includes the press, opposing coaches and students as well. I’m sure many students said Oak Ridge would win because they go to the school and have to show pride but basically know nothing about football save for watching it from the stands on Friday nights. The first seven games were awesome! The last four were a nice reality check to show the players and War Eagle faithful they have lots of work to do before they become an elite high school football program.
FUTURE: Next year will be another good year as the team isn’t losing too many players. Some people judge a team’s next season on how this season’s JV team did. That doesn’t apply to Oak Ridge because several sophs and juniors played key roles on varsity. If those players were on the JV, the JV would have lost maybe one game, if any. The frosh A team was impressive so we can expect the team to be better than .500 for at least four years. The junior high programs were good so you could even go back six years.
STONE RAINES, ORHS Band: This guy is like the pro baseball player who set a record for playing all nine positions in a nine inning game. Stone was playing the TRIANGLE for cripes sake! Is there anything this kid can’t do?
JOSHUA LOWE: Long Snapper Lowe did not make one bad snap his whole high school career. NOT ONE! Players get nominated for awards when they show consistency in their play. For Josh, he is up for the Herbalife 24 Chris Rubio Long Snapping Award for the top long snapper in the country which will be announced in Las Vegas, January 17 at an awards ceremony. Last year’s winner was Cole Mazza from California, who is now the starting long snapper at Alabama… as a freshman.
GREAT YEAR: We have bragged on this football team and all connected to it, ad nauseum so we’ll just leave you with this:
There is a growing sense of pride in the Oak Ridge area around everything we do. It’s not just high school sports. It’s all of the local schools, the neighborhoods, and the local businesses. We see it manifested best, though, on Friday nights in the fall, where the whole community has come out to support their football team, their cheerleaders, their Liberty Belles, their highly decorated Oak Ridge band, and the rest of their kids. That great support and attitude is reflected in the activities at the schools, which are at the epicenter of any community. When we support the schools, everything positive spreads throughout the community.
We are loud, and we are proud of our football team, our schools, and our community. Let’s keep this going.
See you January 23rd for the ORHS football banquet.
If you weren’t able to make Thursday night’s game, Chuck Briese and Jim Eastin have provided some photos that capture the festivities. The good ones, as usual, are from Mr. Eastin.