War Eagles Crushed by Westfield 52-21 in Playoffs

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

“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.

The War Eagles, including young Mr. Durst here, have come on long way in three years. Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese.

The War Eagles, including young Mr. Durst here, have come a long way in three years. Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese.

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. 

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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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War Eagles Drop Final 14-5A Game to Highlanders, Look to Playoffs

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Senior wide receiver Tyler Patrick and the 6th ranked Woodlands High School football team were just too much for the Oak Ridge War Eagles Friday night, turning a close game at halftime into a rout, 46-21 at Woodforest Bank Stadium.

Patrick had a memory making night hauling in four Chris Andritsos TD aerials and threw in a 61 yard punt return for another TD for good measure as The Woodlands (8-2, 6-0) clinched the District 14-5A title outright.

Oak Ridge (7-3, 3-3) was not intimidated on this night, as they knew going in if they were to have a chance, they’d have to stay real close in the first half as the Highlanders had not given up a touchdown in the second half to their previous six opponents.

After a quick Andritsos to Patrick 38 yard scoring strike with only 3:32 gone in the first quarter, the War Eagles started to do work and took the lead early in the second quarter on the strength of nine and three yards runs by Kwame Etwi and Justin Edwards, respectively.

Not impressed, Andritsos and Patrick got together on two more TD connections of 13 and 36 yards and The Woodlands was up 21-14 at the intermission.

After the break, the Highlanders were true to form as on the first play from scrimmage senior Sterling Scott took it right up the gut for 75 yards to the two yard line. Patrick Carr took it in from there and with the extra point try going wide right, The Woodlands was up 27-14 with only 29 seconds off the clock in the third quarter.

After a Woodlands defensive stop, Andritsos aired one out to Chris Bell and the Highlanders were in business again deep in Oak Ridge territory. The Oak Ridge defense came through and The Woodlands had to settle for a Ryan Spaulding 25 yard field goal. Oak Ridge was still hanging around, down 30-14 with just under six minutes to go in the third.

The Woodlands D came up big with another stop and the War Eagles had to give the ball away again. Another Andritsos/Patrick TD connection, this time for 28 yards and Oak Ridge fell further behind, 37-14.

Oak Ridge went three and out and Patrick Coale’s punt resulted in Tyler Patrick’s punt return to paydirt. The War Eagles were down 44-14 as the third quarter mercifully ended.

To start the fourth quarter,The Woodlands lineman Tanner Birdsong sacked Oak Ridge QB Jacob Norton in the end zone for a safety and the Highlanders stretched their lead to 46-14.

Oak Ridge continued to fight and did something no other team has been able to do against The Woodlands in two months: score a touchdown in the second half, as Justin Edwards barged through for a one yard TD. With Coale’s kick, Oak Ridge was down 46-21.

The Woodlands sat on the ball to run out the clock and both teams were now more interested in their first playoff opponents.

Both teams qualified for postseason play in the Class 5A Division I bracket. Oak Ridge will play district 13-5A champion Spring Westfield (10-0) at Leonard George Stadium in Spring on Thursday, November 14 at 7:00 p.m. The Woodlands will host district 13-5A runner-up Klein (6-4) at Woodforest Bank Stadium on Friday, November 15, at 7:00 p.m.

WORTHY OF NOTE:

We won’t be going crazy this week with W.O.N. because the team has work to do and the regular season is in the past. Let’s look at how the team came in second in the conference and have a playoff game on Thursday instead of dwelling on the last three regular season games.

COACHING: Dereck Rush and Company did an excellent job working with the team readjusting to not having Braden Letney at QB. I counted four players at QB and there may have been more. Various formations were used and not all of them had been used this season. That shows how well coached the players are. O-Line coach Richard Compton has the line playing to the best of their ability. At times he has to go ballistic convincing his players they can do better. Do they do better? Yep. They do.

FAN SUPPORT: Oak Ridge fans packed the house, and provided the War Eagles with a true home-field advantage. Not an easy task given the proximity to The Woodlands. They have remained supportive throughout the season. This includes Clayton Grett who is out with an injury to his squash, and effectively reduced to a spectator Friday night. He was heard telling his teammates late in the third quarter, “We have nothing to lose… make some plays!”

JOSH LOWE: If you watch Lowe play center, he is mechanically sound but he takes a beating out there. All centers do. Watching him on the sidelines limp around and go out on the field every offensive series is testament to his mental and physical toughness. It’s not an easy position to play. No matter what is called, the center gets in a car crash every play. Be thankful we have this guy out there.

JACOB NORTON: 23-34 for 176 yards with one pick. Well done, Norton! Oak Ridge is in capable hands.

SHORT PEOPLE: Collin Brimberry caught 4 passes for 17 yards. However, The W has a smaller guy. Sterling Scott ran six times for 122 yards. I don’t care what team he plays for… he’s awesome in our book.

TRAITOR: It was humorous to see our fans call Patrick Carr a traitor. If you know the whole story it’s a little deeper than that and he’s not a traitor. It would be cool to see him play for Oak Ridge though.

GONG GUY: We screwed up a couple of weeks ago. Although Stone Raines plays various instruments, he does not play the gong much. Connor Ames is the gong guy. We know Ames is an OU fan and a frosh. We’ll be investigating Ames for the next four days and will report back to you. Unfortunately, if he has any ties to Chuck Barris and the CIA and we tell you… we’ll have to kill you. [Editor’s Note: No one under the age of 50 gets that obscure reference.]

GAME WITHIN A GAME: During the game, if you pay close attention to the bands, there is another game going on. It is not a competitive game though. It’s like the bands are having conversations with each other in code. I asked several people, including parents, and no one could give me a decent answer as to exactly what the communication is. Conclusion: It’s a band thing.

LIBERTY BELLES AND HIGHSTEPPERS: Ok we all know how good the Belles are. Can we agree that the Woodlands Highsteppers are pretty awesome, too? Did you see their routine? Good grief!

TWHS BAND HALFTIME SHOW: It was a train theme with props and the whole works. They do everything top shelf like we do. One problem… does someone want to inform them that they do not have train tracks on that side of the highway? We own the train tracks. We cross them most every day. OK, OK, the old “Oak Ridge is on the other side of the tracks” motivation is outdated.

I’M A BEAST! Evidently, this song by T. Powell is supposed to motivate young people and, in particular, our football team. Players ran out of the tunnel to this song in the second half. The Highlanders scored like four seconds later. It’s time to retire “I’m a Beast”. We suggest going with “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin. [Another Editor’s Note: I think most Oak Ridge parents would agree: We need to make this happen.]

TRAINER OF THE WEEK RANDI HAYDON: Randi is the trainer hobbling around with a boot on. That’s pretty cool and even a good inspiration to the football players that we have an injured trainer working while hurt. Randi looks forward to studying Sports Medicine in college. It is a major passion to her and I’ll let her describe it.”Being able to be on the sideline of every game is one of the highlights of my week. Getting to learn about all of the injuries is interesting, too.”

Randi is also in FFA which is another school activity she has passion for. She is in the FFA and has been raising a Red Brahman heifer. After college, she wants to be a trainer and buy and sell cattle on the side. Randi is very thankful for all of the opportunities the athletic training program and FFA have given her. “I can’t wait to proceed with both of them in the future”, she said. Oh, you wanna know how she hurt her leg? She was showing her heifer at State Fair of Texas when the big animal got scared and jumped on Randi’s foot. She’ll be in a walking boot for three weeks… and still working!

WOODLANDS CLASS: Say what you want about The Woodlands and their football program but they operate with class and they play with sportsmanship. Yeah, like us they’ll have an individual run adrift in the character department but the offender is straightened out real quick. Both teams are on top of the character issue and it’s nice to run into a team that plays with as much as class as we do.

That’s all we got. Stats for the game as reported by HCN are below. Until we meet in Spring, Go Oak Ridge!!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

Rushing — The Woodlands: Sterling Scott 6-122, Patrick Carr 15-38, Chris Andritsos 4-14, Dylan Larsen 1-2. Oak Ridge: Justin Edwards 7-39, Ewame Etwi 15-36, Jamarqus Durst 1-18, Jacob Norton 8-13, Lamar Handy 1-12, Riley McKnight 3-8: .

Passing — The Woodlands: Andritsos, 14-20-1, 279 yards. Oak Ridge: Jacob Norton 23-34-1, 176 yards.

Receiving — The Woodlands: Tyler Patrick 5-129, Chris Bell 3-96, Bayley Novak 1-22, Kalif Johnson 2-15, Hunter Moore 2-14, Robert Le Goubin 1-3. Oak Ridge: Jarmarqus Durst 7-116, Lamar Handy 1-17, Collin Brimberry 4-17, Michael Angeletti 3-14, McKnight 2-11, Justin Edwards 3-4.

If you weren’t able to make the long trip to Friday 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. 

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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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War Eagles Can’t Stop Lufkin, Can’t Contain Them, Fall 42-10

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Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

As usual, it was a long drive up to Lufkin for the Oak Ridge War Eagle football team, cheerleaders, band, Liberty Belles, color guard, and everyone else that made the trip with just a smidgen of optimism to see their football team take on the always-mighty Lufkin Panthers. And once again, it was an even longer drive home, as Oak Ridge fell to Lufkin 42-10.

Don’t be fooled by Lufkin’s 4-5 season record. The Panthers clinched their 16th consecutive playoff spot by climbing to 3-2 in conference, overwhelming an overmatched War Eagle secondary with five touchdown passes, three of which were for more than 50 yards. Those types of plays can quickly deflate a team, and although Oak Ridge fought hard throughout the game, they just could not match up with a Panther team playing in front of a rabid home crowd.

Remember, the five Lufkin Panther home football games are probably the five biggest events of the year in Lufkin. The sixth is probably an intra-team scrimmage. These people live for Friday Night Lights. The local businesses provide tremendous support to the team, and generations of Lufkin football fans show up to see the hometown boys take on whoever is unlucky enough that year to make the long bus trip to East Texas. You have to bring your A-game to have a chance against Lufkin, and the War Eagles did not do that this year.

The Oak Ridge offense could manage only 48 rushing yards against the Panthers. Did the offensive line not open up enough holes? Did the running backs not hit them? Or was the Lufkin defensive line just way too good in this game? The coaches will see that when they look at the game tapes.

Right now, it’s time to put this one behind us, and look forward to the annual match-up with The Woodlands.

WORTHY OF NOTE: 

PATRICK COALE: If you’ll look back to the A&M Consol game, you’ll remember Coale having a tough night in the punting department. Well, we reported that Coale would get right back up on that horse and win the mental game next time out. Last night, if you were to give one Oak Ridge player the game ball, it would have been Coale.

SCHEDULE: Oak Ridge started out the season 7-0 and we all had dreams that Oak Ridge would just keep on rolling even against the three toughest opponents in the district. As soon as the team lost last week, the second guessers started appearing, en masse. People were wondering why Coach Rush would schedule such weak opponents to start out the season because it would come back to haunt them later against The Big 3.

First of all, Oak Ridge needed those eight positive weeks (one bye week). The program had been through some tough years and was in desperate need of a boost. We saw a glimpse of how good the War Eagles can be in the years to come.

Second, it isn’t Coach Rush’s schedule. The pre-district schedule with several Home and Home agreements was etched in stone before Rush even entertained thoughts of coming to Oak Ridge.

Next season, you’ll see some tougher pre-district opponents. However, this season’s schedule brought us Oak Ridge fans closer together and the team hasn’t had better support in the 5A era.

CLAYTON GRETT: Clayton took one to the squash again. He’s such a great person and the last thing from my mind right now is wondering when he can play again. Get well, CG!

CHRIS GRETT: Former War Eagle QB and big brother to Clayton, Chris played the whole second half for Sam at safety in The Battle of the Piney Woods. He switched to safety this year because he felt it would be the only way he’d get substantial playing time. To all appearances, the older Grett is completely legit and should not ever come out of a game for SHSU.

BRADEN LETNEY: Letney suffered an ankle injury which could sideline him for the rest of the season. If that becomes true, the kid had one heck of a season. The sky is the limit for a player with Letney’s talent. To think he is just a sophomore is ridiculous.

JACOB NORTON: Norton played admirably and when he had time in the pocket, his throws were on the money. If he is made to scramble, his accuracy is off. That’s not a slight at all. Not many high school QB’s can throw accurately when they are running for their lives all night long.

O-LINE: Not every player or unit is going to play lights out for every minute of every game in a season. Even the best players have bad games. This game was their one bad game. They’ll be back!

WHEELS: Although the team went hard all game long, towards the end of the third quarter you could see the wheels coming off of Oak Ridge’s wagon. The team was deflated for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which was because Lufkin is damn good. You watch, they’ll go 2-3 deep in the playoffs. They are playing their best now and Oak Ridge ran into them at the wrong time. There are other reasons but see the next couple of paragraphs.

OFFICIALS: Did we not tell you last week that Oak Ridge can not expect ANY calls? Some fans came up to me last night and said they almost left because they were almost getting sick watching how one sided the officiating can be. Now, this is not an Oak Ridge excuse because Lufkin was better on Friday night. But, in regards to the team looking deflated late in the game, lopsided officiating can take part of the blame. I’ve been going to games in Lufkin for years and I am telling you it is a major joke. A team that is that good should never have the benefit of lopsided officiating. Have they won a state championship lately? No! Why? Because when they go out in the real world when it is time to play for the hardware, the team has not done well.

POOR SPORTSMANSHIP: Look that up in the dictionary and the word LUFKIN is right there. The coaches do not have a handle on the players in that department. Down the road in life, wins and losses in high school will mean squat. Whether you are a decent person with good values will be king. Coaches can be a major factor in a young athlete’s future. The  Lufkin coaches should put more emphasis on the class aspect.

THE WOODLANDS: It doesn’t get any easier so the Oak Ridge coaches will have to start getting real creative because The W has beaten Consol and Lufkin handily. What we know about the Oak Ridge players and coaches is that they will be going 100% no matter what. You gotta love the pride they show every second they play.

The future looks bright for Oak Ridge football and every other sport. We are catching War Eagle athletics on the upswing so cherish what we have. We’ll be up for a long time!

See you at Woodforest Friday night!!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make the long trip to Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. These are courtesy of the always-reliable Jim Eastin. 

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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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Air Consol Slices Through War Eagle Defense, Hands Ridge First Loss

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Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Quarterback Kobe Miller and Air Consol touched down on Moorhead Stadium on Friday night to rain passing TD’s on the previously unbeaten Oak Ridge War Eagles (7-1, 3-1) showing the home team just what a top tier 5A football team looks like. A last minute Oak Ridge touchdown by way of a Braden Letney to Riley McKnight 33 yard scoring strike made the final score look respectable, 41-23 as Oak Ridge fought tooth and nail to the very last second.

A&M Consolidated (6-2, 4-1) turned a close halftime score of 14-10 into a route as four of Miller’s five TD passes came in the second half to include three in a row on their first three possessions of the second half. Derrick Dick was the recipient of the initial TD of 15 yards and Kerry Thomas absorbed 32 and 40 yard Miller aerial’s in order as Air Consol outscored the War Eagles 20-0 in the third quarter.

The game started out much the same way the second half did as the Tigers from College Station scored twice in the first 5:19 of the game on a Brandon Jackson 29 yard run and Dick hauled in a 37 yard Miller missile in taking a 14-0 lead.

The partisan Oak Ridge crowd had seen the War Eagles start slowly before so the two quick visiting scores had no influence on their enthusiasm level. Their team had climbed out of holes before.

Have no fear, the War Eagles were at it again as less than two minutes later Letney ran the pigskin in from 27 yards and Oak Ridge was in business.

The Oak Ridge offense’s success seemed to motivate the defense as they held the Tigers scoreless for the rest of the first half. The War Eagles even won the second quarter 3-0 on the strength of Patrick Coale’s leg as he was dead solid perfect from 35 yards out with 1:07 remaining in the second quarter.

Oak Ridge had won the battle of the second quarter and headed into the locker room with momentum even though they were down 14-10.

Unfortunately,  Oak Ridge’s momentum did not carry over to the second half as the Kobe Miller show was about to begin.

A&M Consolidated racked up 26 first downs and 465 total yards with 122 coming by way of the ground and 343 by way of Miller’s arm.

Oak Ridge won the battle on the ground in grinding out 214 tough yards and 158 through the air totaling 372 yards overall. Letney was 20-144 on the ground. Kwame Etwi was 8-33, McKnight 2-21 and Edwards 5-14 including a TD on a one yard plunge late in the game.

Consolidated’s Brandon Jackson took team rushing honors with nine carries for 78 yards.

Letney was 9-17-1 through the air for 158 yards and one passing TD. Miller was 23-27 for 343 yards and five TD’s.

Ridge’s McKnight caught three balls for 69 yards and a TD and Colin Brimberry caught one pass for 41 yards.

The War Eagles travel to Lufkin next Friday in a huge District 14-5A tilt, as Lufkin just won their first district game on Friday night over College Park.

WORTHY OF NOTE: 

LEGIT 5A TEAM? The question in regards to how Oak Ridge stands up presently against top flight 5A competition was answered on Friday night. Because we take pride in not only being as positive as possible and telling it like it is…good or bad, to be brutally honest Oak Ridge has a lot of work to do because it gets just as tough next week against Lufkin and much tougher against The Woodlands to finish up the season. Don’t be fooled by Lufkin’s record either because they are real good. They’ve been a big time program for a long time and schedule ridiculous pre-district opponents. Right now, that is paying off for Lufkin in spades. Why? Because when you go to Funkytown next week you’re not only playing a good team, you are playing against other elements as well. Don’t expect Oak Ridge to go in there and get any calls from the zebra’s whatsoever. Our team will be up against it big time. Let’s put it bluntly: If Oak Ridge goes to Lufkin and wins it will be the biggest victory in War Eagle history. The good news? They’ve already done that this year so why not keep doing it?

Here’s a promise: If Oak Ridge wins next week in Lufkin, the drinks are on me at any Lufkin drinking establishment you want. One catch though… Someone is paying for hotels for all 3000 of you because ain’t nobody driving home under the influence. If you are offended by reading what I just wrote, I’m just kidding. [Editor’s note: there are not enough hotel rooms in Lufkin to hold 3000 people, and well, who really wants to spend a night in a Lufkin hotel room anyway?. Let’s bring some designated drivers to Friday’s game.]

For the rest of you… SHHHH… I’m really not so lets kick some Funkytown butt and have a great time.

INJURY EXCUSE: Yeah, we were missing some key players Friday night, including Clayton Grett, who is arguably the best linebacker in the district. After the game, in walking out to the Moorhead Stadium parking lot last night, along the way I heard the injury excuse being batted around by some of us Oak Ridge fans. You can be banged up and still win big football games. Could Oak Ridge have beaten Air Consol with everyone at full strength? You saw the game… you answer that. Did you ever consider they’ve had the same amount of games as Oak Ridge this season and are probably dealing with injury issues as well? Guess what? We suffered even more last night. NO EXCUSES! The team will eventually rise to the top of the 5A crop and not once will you hear anyone on that team make an excuse along the way. They aren’t so we shouldn’t.

DEPTH: Let’s not kid ourselves, right now we have speed, size and athleticism and are enjoying the best season in Oak Ridge 5A history. The only problem with last night is the other team had more speed, size and athleticism. They did! Right now, our War Eagles are UP for an Oak Ridge football team. There have been down Oak Ridge years and UP Oak Ridge years and this is certainly and UP one. For the rest of the season and the playoffs, our team will be playing teams that are “5A UP”. There’s a huge difference between Oak Ridge UP and 5A UP. Agreed? We know one thing for sure – the players will be going 100% every second of the game because that’s just how they operate. What’s more is they will operate with class and sportsmanship. State championship or not, these players and coaches will be able to look in the mirror at the end of the season (whenever that is) and be happy with what they see.

COLLIN BRIMBERRY: Randy Newman was just flat-out wrong. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Randy Newman, he came out with a song in the 70’s titled, “Short People (Got No Reason to Live)”. Kiss my arse, Randy Newman. Way to go Collin Brimberry! Nice 41 yard reception. His baseball hand-eye coordination is a bonus. It’s not easy out there being the smallest player. Does it make a difference to this dude? Nope! You can play if you have a big heart and big… well… they’re located a little ways down the body and that’s as far as I’m taking it.

BRADEN LETNEY: Letney was good last year and showed poise playing a leadership position being four-five years younger than a lot of his teammates. Look at the progress he has made in how he leads the team, how he runs plays and just his overall generalship. His option reads are solid and when he keeps the ball his strength is huge. Did you see him straight arm a would-be tackler last night straight to the ground? Very seldom will you see one guy tackling him.

JUSTIN EDWARDS: Dozier continues to be useful in short yardage situations. If he doesn’t get the ball, he’s a load that can block.

ANDREW BURKE: We’re not exactly sure how often Burke is used but with 2:52 left in the game, he made a good tackle behind the line. It appears as if Oak Ridge has a convocation of War Eagle linebackers so if the injury bug hits that position (it has), they have depth there.

KICKING GAME/SPECIAL TEAMS: Usually, this is the strongest, most consistent unit on the team. Patrick Coale had an off night punting the ball. What is good about Coale is he kicks and punts so he can make up for a bad kick or a shanked punt pretty quickly in a game so he isn’t down for long. He did drill a 35 yard FG. We saw him after the two punts that were way below his personal standards. Right after them, he was immediately at the net trying to make adjustments. The punter/kicker position is a major HEAD game. Most of it is mental because you’ve seen Coale punt bombs in succession this year. He knows how to do it so now he has to win the HEAD game part of it. Also on special teams, Riley McKnight continues to run back punts like a pro.

A&M CONSOLIDATED: Towards the end of the game, the Tigers committed two late hits way out of bounds. They were up by almost 30 points so the coaches need to be on these guys to play with class. No one expects the players to stop playing… just play with class and not like punks in those situations. They took a knee towards the end of the game so that earned them some points but you’re supposed to be doing that anyway.

CHEERLEADERS: Varsity Cheer coach Sarah Parker invites the junior high cheerleaders to one game a year and the A&M game was the one for 2013. They did an awesome job, don’t you think? The Irons Cheer coach is Kristine Neal and York’s is Trisha Brown. Great job ladies!!!

ORHS BAND MUSICIAN OF THE WEEK: Did you know the Oak Ridge Band has an instrument called a “Gong”? Well, Stone Raines plays the gong and he is our weekly winner! The dude plays a GONG!!! How cool is that? I asked him if he knew Chuck Barris of “The Gong Show” fame and he looked at me as if to say…”Wow, it must suck getting old.” Do all bands have a gong player? Raines gets the award every week for as long as he is in school. Of course, we will have one other winner every week but without fail, rest assured knowing you will be seeing Stone’s name in the weekly Oak Ridge Now article for as long as he plays the gong!!! [Another Editor’s note: What? No T Rex reference?]

MAYOR JIM KUYKENDALL: The Mayor of Oak Ridge North does the announcing and we must say… he’s pretty good. As long as whoever is up there isn’t trying to do the play by play. I hear some people doing that and it sounds painful. Plus, sometimes they’re giving away information… as in… “uh oh, looks like a bubble screen is coming”. Jim isn’t guilty of this but some are and they need to just announce who ran the ball, who made the tackle, what down and yards to go and sell the people who buy advertising and then shut the heck up. Jim’s Cool! Why? Because you’d never know he is a politician. I don’t know about you but that’s how I judge that profession. Don’t act like you’re in it and I’m fine with you.

WHAT’S  NEXT? You wanna know what’s next? Lufkin is what’s next. Let’s move on and chalk up the A&M Consolidated game as a learning and growing experience. There will be a time when Oak Ridge is 5A UP and they are 5A down. We’ll get ours so don’t you worry about that.

See you in Lufkin!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. These are courtesy of Chuck Briese and Jim Eastin. As usual, the good ones are from Mr. Eastin.

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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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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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Coach Rush and War Eagles Closing In On Parents’ 9-0 Record

Photograph courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photograph courtesy of Jim Eastin

Oak Ridge second year head coach, Dereck Rush is doing something no one thought was possible. He is winning football games at Oak Ridge.

Why? Well, there are many reasons and we will try and make a dent in those without writing a novel today.

To see how Rush has turned the program around, you have to look at what was wrong with it before he arrived. Back in the early 2000’s, the popular Bob Barrett was hired away from Klein Collins to coach the War Eagles in just their second year in 5A football. Those locally who go back that far remember it was Oak Ridge’s last year playing in the tough Klein district where there were multiple teams and thus less pre-district games to tune up with. Without the benefit of spring football because he was hired too late, Barrett’s first year concluded with a 1-9 record. The team was one player deep everywhere as depth was non-existent but Oak Ridge stayed in every game until late in the season when they were just too beat up and their lack of depth caught up with them.

This was the hurricane year and special UIL rules were made so every team could get in all of their games. Oak Ridge played three of Texas’s toughest teams in the space of 12 days. Considering the circumstances, it was a very respectable first year for Coach Barrett.

In Barrett’s second year, the school moved into a six team district allowing the coach to schedule some pre-district tune up games to get ready. This was a break out year for Oak Ridge football as they won seven games and made the playoffs losing to Klein Oak in a competitive first round playoff game. Things were looking up for Oak Ridge and you’d think the town would be getting on board.

However, although Coach Barrett took Oak Ridge to the playoffs four out of the seven years he was at the helm, the people of Oak Ridge were never completely behind the program. Coach Barrett and his staff coached up the players as best they could and the whole program worked hard. The only problem was when these athletes went home every day, for the most part their parents would suck whatever positive energy out of them the coaches had instilled that day and it would be back to square one the next day for the staff. It was a tough atmosphere to win in and the school was not getting the players moving in.

This went on for the rest of Barrett’s tenure culminating in his exit after the 2011 season. Barrett’s exit was not for a lack of production. If a coach leads a 5A football team to the playoffs better than 50% of the time, that would be considered productive.

After seven years, the powers that be decided a change in atmosphere was necessary so with the help of District AD Danny Long, Dereck Rush was hired away from Tyler-John Tyler where he had compiled a 42-23 record after going 1-9 his first season there. If you are an Oak Ridge fan, you had high hopes because Rush started off 1-9 at Oak Ridge and is presently 6-0 in his second year.

Rush, in his late 30’s, has a strong football background in coaching as well as playing. After playing linebacker at D-1 Mississippi State, he stayed on as a Graduate Assistant under legendary coach Jackie Sherrill. He paid his dues coaching at Ector Junior High, which is an Odessa feeder school, Odessa high school, Midland Christian, and eventually Tyler John Tyler before he got the War Eagle gig.

During Rush’s ascent, along with football he has coached basketball, track, and softball. Rush’s coaching mentor list reads like a who’s who in coaching greats. Jackie Sherrill needs no introduction. Thomas Brooks had been a legend at Jasper before coming to T.J.T. Scott Phillips is a legendary high school coach in Alabama. Dennis Parker won a state championship at Marshall before becoming head coach at the University of North Texas. Kelvin Ratliff won three state championships at Midland Lee. Randy Quisenberry was head coach at Abilene Cooper and Midland Lee. Randy Mayes was head coach at Odessa Permian. Joe Lee Dunn has been a defensive coordinator in every league except for maybe… Stratomatic. His latest gig is a head coaching position at McMurry State in Texas. The list can go on and on.

Not to anyone’s surprise, Coach Rush’s number one mentors have been his mother and father. Dad was a baptist minister and his mom a very busy housewife. The “housewife” term is underrated in any case but even more so when you talk about Mama Rush. Why? The Rush’s have nine children, all of whom have gone to college and all have earned college degrees. It’s tough enough to raise one kid down the right path so when you see someone going nine for nine, you must assume Mom and Dad have some magic formula.

In talking to Coach Rush, I asked him how he has gained the trust of all of the players. It’s not just the trust factor because they like, respect and would go through a wall for him and his staff. Most of the time, a coach can survive with two of the three but rarely do you see a coach have all three.

How many times have you heard… “I respect the coach but I don’t like him.” Rush lets us in on how he has his athletes drinking the same kool-aid. “Coaching is about building relationships. That’s the first thing you have to do. The kids have to truly understand you and trust you. Rush continued, “Kids know if you are real or not because they can see right through you. The trust factor is a must and I told these kids I will never lie to them and I will always give my all for them on and off the field.”

Rush was a linebacker for Mississippi State so it would be easy to assume that he is more of a defensive coach than an offensive coach. He combats that assumption with the following simple philosophy: “The better you are as a defensive coach, the better you are as an offensive coach.”

Some of you may not know this but Coach Rush challenged all of the coaches of all sports at Oak Ridge last year to win. This was a bold move considering he was hired with not much time left in the school year and therefore spring football was cut short. As you do know, Rush’s first year concluded with a 1-9 record but if you were following the team you knew they were in every game except for the Lufkin game. I’m not checking all of the records for every sport in the 2012-13 school year but I believe Rush was the losingest coach in the school. He didn’t care because he’s been a success everywhere he’s been and he knew going in that the program would not be fixed the first year.

So, here we are six games into Oak Ridge’s second year and the team is 6-0. It looks like Rush knew all along this was going to happen because he liked what he saw in his athletes when he arrived. He also has faith in his coaching staff. The coach has also helped turn around the culture that was about as bad as one could get in a high school feeder zone. Before, you weren’t seeing coaches being supported. The culture cannot change when the parents are not on board. Rush has been able to earn the trust of his players and parents. When you have those two, the community will follow.

Guess what? The community has indeed followed. You want proof? The Homecoming game was a sellout and 450 Oak Ridge fans were relegated to the visiting stands. I’ve been covering football in this area for a long time and this is a first for Oak Ridge at Woodforest Bank Stadium. The Woodlands does it all the time and I believe College Park has done it as well. In Lufkin, there are fans climbing the scoreboard to watch.

This just in… Coach Rush makes some serious kool-aid! Let’s not get cocky, though. Oak Ridge is rated 10th in the Houston Chronicle poll but 152 in the state and 1280 in the nation according to MaxPreps. There’s still work to be done.

See you at the Conroe game!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

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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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Cardiac Kids Pull Out Another Big Win Against College Park, 21-14

Karley Godfrey and Josh Myers were chosen as the 2013 Oak Ridge High School homecoming queen and king. Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

Karley Godfrey and Josh Myers were crowned as the 2013 Oak Ridge High School homecoming queen and king at halftime.

Dereck Rush and his Oak Ridge War Eagles rose from the dead once again as they scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take down College Park (3-2, 0-1) in cardiac fashion Friday night at Woodforest Bank Stadium.

Oak Ridge (6-0, 2-0) forced five turnovers on the night and overcame two of their own with Ben Acker recovering two of the Cavalier loose balls, creating momentum swings at crucial stages of the game. College Park outgained the War Eagles in total yards 290 to 272 but the five turnovers sealed their fate.

The first half was all College Park as their defense stymied the War Eagles, keeping the Oak Ridge defensive unit on the field for the majority of the 24 minutes. The Oak Ridge D did yeoman’s work but the Cavs made the War Eagles pay with two late second quarter TD’s. Jayden Holden caught an eight yard scoring aerial from QB Colton Farmer with 2:25 left in the half and Chance Givens hauled in a Farmer 26 yard scoring strike with just 15 seconds left to make it 14-0 College Park at intermission.

The teams toughed out a non scoring third quarter but Oak Ridge was driving late and as they changed ends, the War Eagles were on the Cavalier three yard line deciding whether to kick a field goal or go for the TD on 4th and goal. Rush, showing confidence in his team, and in particular Jacob Norton, went for it and on the first play in the fourth quarter, Norton executed a perfect mis-direction play and found Demarcus Durst all by his lonesome, putting the War Eagles on the board. Patrick Coale’s kick was good and Oak Ridge was in business down just one touchdown with only four seconds gone in the final quarter.

Oak Ridge QB Braden Letney made quick use of another College Park turnover and a minute and a half later he handed off to Kwame Etwi who, knifing through the Cavalier line, scored on a three yard TD. Coale’s kick failed and Oak Ridge trailed 14-13 with just over five minutes to play.

On College Park’s next possession Oak Ridge forced yet another fumble and the War Eagles were on the Cavalier 21 yard line. Shortly thereafter Letney kept the ball and ran around left end to score on a 14 yard scamper. Coach Rush opted for the two point conversion to make up for the failed XP on their previous series. Oak Ridge made good as Letney hit Etwi and Oak Ridge was up for the first time, 21-14 with under five minutes left in the game.

College Park then took possession but could not get anywhere and elected to punt with 3:01 remaining, leaving their fate to the defensive unit to get the O the ball back. The Cavalier defense did their job and with 1:13 left got the ball back at their own 46 yard line with no time outs. On the first play, Farmer went back to pass and with no one open and War Eagle linemen in pursuit, he ran for his life and ended up on the 31 yard line. Oak Ridge was flagged on the next play and College Park had even better field position on the 21 yard line. Farmer then aired one out to the back right corner of the end zone but Tyler Marcel, who made a huge last-second  play in the Bryan game the week before, was Johnny on the spot again and broke up the pass headed for the Cavalier tight end..

The next play saw Farmer drop back to pass again and Oak Ridge was called for roughing the passer, giving College Park even better field position on the 10 yard line. Things were going the Cavs’ way but then Farmer threw a spiral to a perceptive War Eagle defensive back Clayton Grett, who nearly ran the ball back for a TD, sealing the game.

After the game, Grett detailed the INT. “I looked at his (Farmer) eyes, the ball was a little high and I jumped for it, caught it and ran. “We haven’t been 6-0 in any of our school lives, junior high or high school – this means the world.”

Rush was elated after the game. ““It feels great – the biggest thing is it’s a district win. We set goals in November of last year in striving to win a district championship and we don’t look at the records. We take it step by step, day by day, practice by practice and get better,” Rush continued. “We’ve been talking to our defense this week about fighting through adversity and that defense wins championships. We made plays when we had to make plays.”

Letney and Norton combined for 58 yards passing while Jamarquis Durst had 32 yards receiving. Justin Edwards took team rushing bragging rights with 65 yards. Etwi was held in check by College Park to the tune of 15 carries for 52 yards.

College Park’s Colton Farmer was 9-20 with one INT and 120 yards through the air. He rushed for 33 yards and Philip Achee ran for 83 yards.

Oak Ridge has a bye week coming up and then four weeks of games in a row against, Conroe, A&M Consolidated, Lufkin, and The Woodlands, in order.

WORTHY OF NOTE:

The Oak Ridge War Eagles are 6-0 overall and 2-0 in District 14-5A. Oh, you are having trouble comprehending that? Here it is again… The Oak Ridge War Eagles are 6-0 overall and 2-0 in District 14-5A. You got it now? No need to go into how long it’s been since Oak Ridge football was 6-0 to start out a season. We’re talking 5A football now… Enough said!

Ben Acker: This kid recovered two fumbles. It’s not like the pigskin just magically appeared before Acker and he pounced on them. No way. With maximum effort and God given strength he came up with those fumbles because he is an absolute balls to the walls high school football player. It could be debated what certain points during a game were the major turning points because every Oak Ridge kid had a hand in this victory as it was truly a team win. However, Oak Ridge won that football game partly because Ben Acker was on the football field.

Clayton Grett=M-O-N-E-Y. This senior linebacker makes play after play and he’s born leader. Sound bite in the first half when Oak Ridge had not solved CP yet. Grett walked up to a bunch of War Eagles on the back bench who were being real quiet… “You all being quiet is not gonna work here!” He is constantly UP and making sure all around him are in the game mentally. It’s huge for a team when guys like Grett are on it.

I finally saw Coach Rush almost lose his temper with an official. The Linesman is in charge of yardage gained or lost. He is also supposed to be aware of the coach on his side of the field if the coach is calling for a time-out. At a crucial part of the game, Rush had to do a windsprint and almost get in the the Linesman’s face to get his time-out. This guy was completely wrong and Rush had cause to be upset and he voiced his displeasure to the other officials and they understood completely. When things settled down, you could tell the other officials were telling the Linesman in not so many words that he can’t have tunnel vision. Rush went back before the time out was over and apologized and all was hunky dory again. BTW, because of the Oak Ridge student section doing a great job all night long, the zebra couldn’t hear squat but his head should still be on a swivel anyway.

More on Rush: Speaking of head on a swivel… after a mix up in the backfield, Oak Ridge fumbled deep in CP territory and the Cavaliers recovered. I was looking at Rush and he went right from his offensive coach to standing next to his defensive coach and ready to roll again. He’s like “What’s next?” and doesn’t have time to dwell on the fumble… that’s a good thing.

This just in… Nick Lauterbach can play. He is all over the place as a center fielder should be. If he’s not breaking up long pass plays, he’s in on just about every tackle. If you want to teach your son how to play safety, just tell him to watch Lauterbach and he’ll have a gigantic head start on the learning process.

The War Eagles are winning in cardiac fashion because they put it all together in the latter stages of the game. Give credit to College Park Coach Carson for coaching an awesome game but feel good about how Oak Ridge is playing good late in games. Ideally, you want to play great all game long but what team ever does that? These kids are in massive shape and can go all night long. The War Eagles were down 14-0 to start the fourth quarter and not one time did these kids think they were going to lose. Here they are 6-0 and have not put together a complete game but continue to improve as they go. With the three best teams in the district coming up, this team is on the right road.

Don’t get too cocky: Oak Ridge is in the top ten in some local polls for the Houston area. It’s great to be recognized and the team just may be that good. Here’s some humble pie… Carl Padilla of the Padilla Poll has a statewide high school poll and he was at the game tonight. He has a complex system that rates all teams in the state. At the start of the season, Oak Ridge was 180th in Texas. Before the College Park game, 70th and moving up. More than likely the Ridge will move up a few spots but we are still talking 60th at best. If you want to read how good you think you are, go ahead and read local press clippings. If you want reality, check out the Padilla Poll and you’ll never get overconfident. Go with the Padilla Poll and keep yourselves honest.

Justin Edwards: I told you he’s like DJ Dozier in that he goes through people and probably has a pretty good 40 time. He showed off some speed on that long run early in the game. Unfortunately, he got stripped and a turnover occurred. College Park has always been very good at stripping the ball, too. I know Carson sets aside a whole practice segment on it. No worries, Justin. If you’re gonna get stripped, at least it was by a team that excels at it.

Kicking game: It’s always good if you have Patrick Coale on your team. You had to like the 63 yard punt he coffin cornered making the Cavaliers start out on their one yard line. Yeah, he hit the left upright in the fourth quarter that would have tied things up at 14, but rarely is it just the kickers fault. They’ll be putting in some extra time with the field goal/XP unit at practice. Here’s a challenge for Coale: I’m challenging you to a duel. Start from 20 yards and go back five yards every time. You can only miss once from each distance. If you beat me, I take you, the holder and the offensive line (O-Line on field goal unit) to an all you can eat Chinese joint. Oh, almost forgot… nice pooch kicks. You’ve got that down real good.

It was Homecoming and, as usual, fun was had by all…

Gambling: On a 3rd and 6 and with possession of the ball in the second half, the Oak Ridge offense needed a big play. I walked over to my Yearbook friend again and told her I’d give her another hundred dollars if the War Eagles got the first down. Sure enough, Letney kept the ball and ran left and several yards later had a huge first down and I was out another C note. I don’t care because I think I’m backwards lucky. This Yearbook friend will have plenty of college spending money if I continue to be unsuccessful in my betting.

Keisha Davis is our Oak Ridge Now Athletic Trainer of the Week. They all deserve personal recognition because if you watched these people you’d get dizzy because they move so fast. When you have about 80 guys that you are in charge of, that’s a lot of responsibility. Thank you, Keisha!!!

Halftime: Ya know, just once I want to go to a high school football game and NOT hear over the loud speaker how so and so high school band is an award winning band. Do you notice that every band that ever comes in here is an award winning band? I’m not talking about College Park’s or ours because these bands are awesome but during a season you’ll see a couple that could not be award winning. I’m assuming some of these bands drove around one day and picked a cul-de-sac to set up shop. When finished with their routine, they were given a thumbs up by three groups of families… and now they claim to be award winning.

CP Band: College Park’s halftime show was titled, “Give Us This Day” which included Amazing Grace and other awesome songs. It’s so cool that this band is not concerned with being politically incorrect. AND… this was a school event. I felt like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Cavailer Band, you keep on rockin!!

Ridge Rowdies, Band, Color Guard, Liberty Belles and Babes (Junior high Belles), frosh, JV and V cheer, Honor Guard, crew, etc… were all repped for Homecoming. Every one does a great job repping the school.

In speaking with Rush after the game, I asked him if it was by design that the Homecoming halftime festivities were shorter than usual. He said the band director and he decided that the band would play before the game on the field. The band has a big competition coming up and Rush wanted to make sure the band was prepared. If two bands played at halftime the length of intermission would have been almost over an hour. Good call by the Coach and Band leader. Compare a long halftime to the Super Bowl. Those are almost an hour. I don’t know about you but with the kind of Super Bowl parties I attend, the game is over at halftime because… well… well you lose interest for some reason. No one lost interest Friday night!

Ridge rules!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. These are courtesy of Jim Eastin and Chuck Briese. The good ones, as usual, are by Mr. Eastin.

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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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War Eagle O-Line Keys Come From Behind Win in Bryan 36-33

Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

Photo courtesy of Chuck Briese

Thomas Shiver, Justin Smith, Grant Homrighaus, Christian Jackson, Nick Gonzalez , Josh Lowe and the Oak Ridge War Eagles came back from a 33-17 deficit to conquer the mighty Bryan Vikings late in the fourth quarter, and preserved their perfect record in a District 14-5A thriller Friday night at Merrill Green Stadium in Bryan, 36-33.

Shiver, Smith, Homrighaus, Jackson, Gonzalez and Lowe compose the War Eagles (5-0, 1-0) offensive line. Because they did such an outstanding job, Kwame Etwi was able to score four touchdowns, including a 59 yarder with 2:31 left in the game. That score proved to be the winning tally in what wasn’t one of Oak Ridge’s best efforts thus far in the 2013 campaign.

Things did not start out positively for the War Eagles as Bryan (2-3, 0-1) surprised Oak Ridge with a successful onsides kick on the opening kickoff. A few plays later, running back Bobby Johnson scored on a five yard run and with a successful extra point by kicker Corey Johnson, the Vikings were quickly out in front 7-0 with just 1:08 gone in the first quarter.

Oak Ridge then got down to business and on a drive that was stalled on Bryan’s 10 yard line, kicker Patrick Coale connected on a 27 yard field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, Coale executed a perfect pooch kick that arrived at Tyler Slaydon (Bryan kick returner) inside the 25 yard line at about the same time several War Eagles special teams players arrived. The ball went through Slaydon’s hands, bounced off his knee and trickled to the 29 yard line where a fumble pile quickly appeared to include several swarming War Eagles and Vikings. The referees disassembled the madness and the War Eagle’s Marcus Mitchell was found clutching the ball.

A Kwame Etwi run brought the War Eagles to a first and goal on the five yard line. Justin Edwards took the handoff on first down and drove to the three yard line. On second down, Letney kept it and got nowhere. On a third down option play, Letney ran left and was tripped up but was able to dive into the end zone, putting Oak Ridge on top.

From that point until late in the third quarter, someone needed to put out an APB (All Points Bulletin) in an effort to locate the Oak Ridge football team. After three straight touchdowns by Bryan’s Johnson on a one yard run, 85 yard run and a 20 yard receiving TD, it was 27-10 Bryan. With 5:21 left in the third quarter, Etwi scored on a one yarder making the score, 27-17.

On Johnson’s 85 yard TD, once again Oak Ridge had a running back stopped only to have him bounce outside for a long TD.

On Bryan’s next possession, the Oak Ridge defense stopped the Vikings, but on 4th down Bryan ran a perfectly executed fake punt as V.J. Banks hit Justin Newton with a pass. That play kept alive a late third quarter drive that culminated in a Williams 34 yard touchdown run with 2:25 left in the third. After a failed extra point try it was 33-17.

The third quarter soon ended and so did the search for the War Eagle football program. In reappearing, they returned as the War Eagles of old and dominated the whole fourth quarter starting with the second of Etwi’s four second half touchdowns on a two yard score. Down by ten, Coach Rush went to the “laws of coaching handbook” and went for two in the hopes of being behind by one TD and a deuce conversion if Oak Ridge was successful. The run failed and the score was 33-23.

The Kwame Etwi show continued as Oak Ridge drove down the field again and Etwi took another one in from 23 yards out. With Coale’s XP good, the War Eagles trailed by three, 33-30.

The Oak Ridge defense did their job again as the offense was back in possession of the ball with three minutes left on the clock.

Shortly thereafter, Etwi’s number was called again on an option play; with the help of the excellent War Eagle O-line, Kwame picked the right hole and off he went for a clutch 59 yard scoring run. Coale’s kick failed, making the score 36-33 good guys, leaving  the home team needing a field goal to tie things up or a TD to win it.

The game was far from over and Bryan had no intention of laying down as they drove the ball downfield and advanced the ball to the Oak Ridge 12 with under 20 seconds remaining.  With no time outs left, Bryan’s sophomore QB B.J. Ross was forced to call a play on the run. He rushed a throw towards receiver Corey Johnson to the back left corner of the end zone, but Oak Ridge cornerback Tyler Marcel was on him like glue and swatted the ball away to preserve the War Eagle victory.

Bryan outgained Oak Ridge in total yardage 504 to 395 but Oak Ridge had five more first downs on the strength of 329 yards rushing.

Letney was 4-8 for 50 yards passing with two of them going to Etwi for 29 yards. Letney ran the ball nine times for 66 yards while Etwi had a monster day gaining 212 yards off of 23 carries.

Bryan QB Ross threw for 223 yards. Sterling Whitney had three catches for  70 yards.

DB’s Kevin Tillery-Walker and Nick Lauterbach had a theft apiece for Oak Ridge.

Oak Ridge plays College Park next Friday.

WORTHY OF NOTE: 

What a huge win! Not because the team played a solid game and they’re playing with such great chemistry and it’s one big Kumbaya festival. No, it wasn’t like that at all. As a matter of fact, it was huge because they were the exact opposite. You saw for yourself that Bryan is a good football team and has weapons. The War Eagles just beat a good 5A football team and at the same time pretty much played more like garbage than they played good. Don’t get mad – they played good in the fourth quarter, proving they can get down and not fall completely apart and settle for having a pity party. In the future, they will know that they have it within them to come back and win a game. Maybe one of those games will be a playoff game. Yeah, this was a huge game where the War Eagles found themselves and are way for better for it. But… let’s not forget that for three quarters the team did what Matt Malatesta of VYPE said they have to guard against: the team started smelling themselves a little and in getting a bit cocky, things fell apart a little, but luckily not quite enough.

Penalties, including unsportsmanlike calls: As I saw on an ORHS Booster Club post, this game was about as sloppy a game as any of you will see. This is uncharacteristic of a Dereck Rush led football team. Also, Oak Ridge entered into unsportsmanlike penalty territory, which is way over the top for a Rush led team. But, you know what? So what? Not that it’s OK but the War Eagles are allowed to make physical and mental mistakes once in a while. They are high school football players, not robots. The coaches will be on these kids and things will be back to normal. It’s not like every player on the team lost their minds. This game was an anomaly and just about everything that could happen bad in a game, happened. And yet… the team got a W out of it. They will be more than ready to play CP next week.

For those of you who’ve been around for a while, I was wondering if any of you experienced the following in the first half: I swear, I thought I was in Funkytown (Lufkin) the whole first half. I won’t give examples because it’ll take too long. I must have seen at least five blatant, ridiculous hometown calls in the first and second quarters. In Lufkin, you expect that because it’s part of the game there. You know if you have Funkytown on your schedule you are going to have to play flawless football because not only are you going to have to defeat a good team, you’ll have to defeat a team of biased officials. Things got a little better in the second half and maybe evened out a little bit, but man I was scared for a while. I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone for a while there. We can’t be having two Funkytowns on our schedule every two years.

Humor: We’re close to the action down there and we hear some pretty good stuff. Some of it will stay there because lots of what happens down there has to stay there. I don’t think this one coach will mind and I don’t mention names:

Oak Ridge was kicking off at one point in the game and Coale’s kick went about five yards deep in the end zone. The returner seemed like he might do something with it but he put down a knee. This one coach muttered so only those close to him could here: “Oh, take it out you chicken. Man, what a chicken!”

Of course, he’s just having fun and meaning no ill will at all towards the player. It was at a certain point during the game where Oak Ridge could have used a big play, which was pretty much the first 36 minutes of the football game. Again, I’m going back to my past because I had colorful coaches like we all did back in the day. I can see my coach back then saying the whole thing this coach said but then adding on some colorful language that usually comes right after the word chicken. Those few of us who are versed in that kind of language can relate. I point this out because I think it’s cool that these coaches remain clean in the face of serious pressure. You’re saying pressure in a high school football game? YES I AM! This is Texas!

FANS, BAND, LIBERTY BELLES, etc… Oak Ridge has good fans and good student organizations. These fans don’t quit either because they believe in their school and don’t give up just like the players don’t. Didn’t you love the crowd chanting (down 16 points in the 3rd quarter):

“I. I. I believe. I believe. I believe that. I believe that. I believe that we. I believe that we. I believe that we will. I believe that we will. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!  I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! ”

Guess what? It worked.

A group of about ten boys had their own cheering section near the front row where the kicking screen is. These guys are stoked. I mean these guys are yelling while the game isn’t even going on because…well… because they just like to. Time was out at one point and nothing is going on except for Patrick Coale kicking balls into the screen. As soon as he kicks it, these guys are like BOOM! WOOOOOOO! YEAHHHHHH and whatever else and it was hilarious. It was nonstop and it was great! Whoever you are… just be at every home and away game, please!

Shout out to Emma Hoffman. She’s one of the very talented cymbals musicians for the Oak Ridge band and just happens to be our Oak Ridge Now Faces in the Band Musicians of the Week. Over the Summer, Emma traveled with the People to People Ambassador Program on The European Odyssey, which is a three week tour of Greece, Italy and France. The program gives students from 5th through 12th grade the opportunity to travel abroad and learn about the world and in turn, educate those in other countries as to what we are all about here. Although attending school is paramount to a person’s success, Emma knows that getting out and learning about the world is doubly as important. After all, “The REAL classroom is outside”.

Lastly… this Oak Ridge football team reminds me of a movie I saw a long time ago because they are on a mission. The movie is called Vision Quest, which is a wrestling movie but it is applicable to any sport.. The main character, Loudin Swain, is played by Matthew Modine. He’s the #1 wrestler at 188 on his high school team. Swain is an 18 year old senior and isn’t satisfied with himself just being good enough and wants to challenge himself. He makes it a personal goal to lose 18 pounds to get down to the best wrestler in the state of Washington’s class. The wrestler at 170 is a marine looking animal that works out by carrying a telephone pole up and down all of the stairs at the University of Washington’s football stadium. The behemoth in wrestling tights is Brian Shute. The journey for Swain is about the most exciting thing to see for a young athlete and a must see for any kid that has set big goals for himself-herself. If you watch this movie and after it do not feel like accomplishing something insanely ridiculous you just aren’t sportsminded. Swain’s credo is the following.

“My name’s Louden, Louden Swain. Last week I turned 18. I wasn’t ready for it. I haven’t done anything yet. So I made this deal with myself. This is the year I make my mark.” 

How about it Oak Ridge football? Have you done anything yet? Is 5-0 good enough for you? Is this the year that you make your mark?

We are all behind you 100%!!!!!!!

Beat CP. One game at a time.

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. These are courtesy of Chuck Briese (Jim Eastin was unavailable this week). They’ll be better next week, as Mr. Eastin always raises the quality of sports photography at Oak Ridge.

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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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War Eagles Go to 4-0, Roll Over Aldine Nimitz 59-21

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Photo courtesy of Jim Eastin

Sophomore quarterback, Braden Letney called his own number four times and threw in a scoring pass to lead the Oak Ridge War Eagles over the outmatched Aldine Nimitz Cougars (2-2) Saturday night, 59-21 before 8,357 fans at Woodforest Bank Stadium. The victory was the fourth straight week Oak Ridge had avenged a 2012 loss.

The win marked the first time since 2007 that Oak Ridge (4-0) has started a season with four straight victories. The 2007 team proceeded to lose six games in a row and to all appearances, it looks like this Oak Ridge team will keep on rolling further proving to themselves that this year’s team is the best football team in Oak Ridge High School history.

It wasn’t the Braden Letney show under center all night long as senior Jacob Norton woke up his War Eagles after Nimitz had tallied first on their initial possession when quarterback Jon Banks hit a speedy Floyd Allen with a 33 yard scoring pass with 5:15 gone in the first quarter. On Oak Ridge’s next possession Letney got picked off and the War Eagle defense was ready for redemption.

The defense did come through in stopping Nimitz on a fourth down and a foot, making way for the Oak Ridge offense, who needed to redeem themselves as well. (Lost money on that one… see “Worthy of Note” remarks at end of article)

Enter Norton, who led the War Eagles to the Cougars 45 yard line on the strength of a 15 yard pass to Lamar Handy. On the next play Norton optioned and ran 30 yards downfield. Handy eventually ended the successful drive with a nifty 15 yard touchdown run as Oak Ridge tied the score after the successful Patrick Coale extra point, 7-7 with 3:04 left in the first stanza.

Little did everyone in attendance know, the game was about to become a blowout. To end the first quarter, Letney showed his 6.7 (60 yard dash) baseball speed racing home for a TD with 37 seconds left in the quarter. Coale’s kick was good and it was 14-7.

Letney helped distance the War Eagles even further with one and five yard runs and successful Coale XP’s making the score 28-7 at the half.

All in attendance were wondering if Dr Jeckyl or Mr Hyde would emerge from the Oak Ridge locker room for the third quarter, as last week’s tough overtime victory over Stratford, after squandering a 22 point halftime lead, was still looming in the back of 8357 minds.

They needn’t have worried, as with four minutes gone in the third quarter Demarcus Durst outran everybody with a 62 yard sprint to paydirt and the route was on, 35-7 after Coale’s XP.

Oak Ridge’s dream game took a back seat when the War Eagles had Nimitz’s Martinez Syria pinned inside their own five yard line, only to let him bounce off the pile take it around left end for 95 yards; the Oak Ridge defense wasn’t smiling any more and the lead was cut to 35-14. Second year coach Dereck Rush was none too pleased with that play after the game telling the Courier’s Michael Taylor of his displeasure.

“We made mistakes,” Rush said. “That long run down there, that 95-yarder, that’s in my mind right now. We have to line up correctly. We have to tackle better.”

Aldine’s big play didn’t phase the War Eagles one bit, as they scored twice in the last four and a half minutes on a Letney to Durst seven yard scoring pass and an Etwi eight yard run; it was 49-14 after three quarters of play.

At 11:04 of the final quarter Letney took the ball in from nine yards making it 56-14. Junior kicker Axel Baron spelled Coale for the extra point, making good on his opportunity. Then Nimitz’s Syria continued on with his impromptu personal track meet running for an 86 yard score, making the score 56-21.

Patrick Coale tacked on a 37 yard field goal which concluded all scoring.

Letney led Oak Ridge rushing with 83 yards followed by Handy and Etwi, both with 77 yards, Durst’s 66, Norton’s 51, Marcus Mitchell’s 51, and Justin Edwards 42. George Stephenson also had one rush for 21 of the most exciting yards of the evening,

Nimitz’s Syria ran for 257 yards on sixteen carries with two of the carries totaling 181 yards.

In the air, Aldine’s Banks was 7-15-1 for sixty four yards. For Oak Ridge, Letney was 5-9-1 for 28 yards and Norton was a perfect 4-4 again with 27 yards.

Nimitz had 339 total yards and Oak Ridge a whopping 525 with 470 coming on the ground.

Demarcus Durst caught three balls for 18 yards. Jarmarqus Durst had two for 16. Handy one for 15, Riley McKnight had one for four, Michael Angeletti and Edwards each had one for a yard apiece.

Floyd Allen caught two for 36 yards in leading Nimitz in that category.

WORTHY OF NOTE:

For those of you who have been around for at least ten years, let’s not kid ourselves and agree that this team is the best Oak Ridge football team in that time. ALSO…seeing as Oak Ridge was 4A before that, we can safely say of ALL TIME.

No disrespect to former head coach, Roger Holtkamp who was here when the school was 4A as he had some real good teams and even took one of them to the final four. Coach Bob Barrett also led some good War Eagle teams, but these 2013 kids are bigger and the area has expanded, so we are now getting more athletes. It’s a good time to be a War Eagle.

Will these kids get big heads by reading their press clippings? Not a chance! Rush and his coaches wouldn’t allow it and have already told their players they have a long way to go if they want to be considered a legitimate 5A playoff team.

In case you forgot, in Coach Rush’s first year, the team was given the Sportsmanship Award. Basically, it means his teams play with class. Last year, in suffering through a 1-9 season, the team will take anything they can get. This year, while winning their first four games you have not even once seen a kid talk trash to the other team. They win with class and lose with class proving you can win and lose but still act the same way regardless.

With all of this football stuff aside, no matter what else the War Eagles do this year on the field, you know they will never embarrass themselves or the fans. Case in point, senior O-lineman, Grant Homrighouse and his Nimitz nemesis were beating the crap out of each other all night long. It didn’t stop Grant from picking up his opponent’s helmet and handing it to him after he helped in knocking off. There’ some mutual respect in the interior line and you should focus on them for a few series. You’ll like what you see. What goes on in the interior line stays in the interior line so you’ve got to watch them for yourself.

BTW, last year’s 1-9 looks worse than it really is and anyone with any type of a positive sports IQ knows this team was in every game except the Lufkin debacle. They could just as easily have been a .500 team but they were just barely overmatched in eight of the nine losses. So, if you know football and sports in general, the 4-0 start this year is not a shocker.

Junior Justin Edwards is a virtual bulldozer. I’m dating myself here but if you ever see footage of former Minnesota Vikings running back, DJ Dozier, you’ll see what I mean. They both are real quick with some speed but also go through people.

The smallest player on the team is Collin Brimberry, so as a fellow height challenged person, it’s good to see him get in once in a while. He caught a pass and gained another 15 yards only to have it called back because of a penalty. Whoever is responsible for the penalty should be suspended from school!!

Marcus Mitchell was in on a play that you just don’t like to see. Marcus collided with a Nimitz runner and received a gash that created a blood gusher not advisable to be seen by those with weak stomachs. The Nimitz player got it even worse as he was carted off the field and taken to a hospital. We hope he is OK and will report his progress soon. Next thing you know, Mitchell is back in the game gaining yardage with a well prepared first aid job by our magnificent War Eagle training staff.

Oak Ridge was fortunate to get a quality move-in player from Maryland in the spring time. His name is Tyler Tullos, a junior linebacker from the Annapolis area of Maryland. Tullos gets in the game on some defensive packages and, seeing as Clayton Grett will unfortunately be out for a week or two, he should be a fixture at linebacker in that time. I asked him what he thought of his team, teammates and football in general in Texas as compared to high school football in Maryland.

“I’m having a lot of fun and definitely the most fun I’ve ever had playing football. We have a very strong bond on this team and everyone looks out for each other. We fight for our brothers. With the success we are having, it’s tough not to have fun. Coming from up north, we didn’t have an athletic period and didn’t put in the work we do here. It’s a whole different game here and it takes up just about all of your time. I wouldn’t call it a game or hobby any more because it’s more like a full time job. Everyone in the community supports us and we have a lot of people watching us. It’s a lot different than having just a few local papers writing an article. The atmosphere here is different and the talent a lot better and we put in so much more work. The game is more advanced here and I like it.”

For those who don’t know, Tullos is an even better lacrosse player and is more than likely going to be a scholarship lacrosse player if he decides to pursue it. He helps me with goalies and I’ve never had a better helper. This kid is constantly moving giving advice and encouragement and always positive. That work ethic and attitude is starting to pay dividends for him on the football field.

Shout out to Riley Mullis, who plays the vibraphone for the Oak Ridge HS marching band. I was watching Mullis and his fellow vibraphone members and they are very amazing. I compare everything to sports and if these guys ever get sick of playing that thing, I could make them into good lacrosse goalies as quick as their hands are.

It was Senior night and every single senior who is in any organization relating to a football game was singled out and I thought the announcer was gonna get lockjaw. Congrats to all senior flag runners, football players, cheer, band, color guard, Liberty Belles, honor guard, and I am sorry if I missed anybody but I am now just paying for being hit in the head way too many times growing up.

Clayton Grett suffered an injury making a tackle early in the game. He’ll see Dr. Coupe early Monday morning to see if he has bruised or broken ribs. It’s no surprise he said he could still play.

Last thing… I have a confession to make… just before that 4th and inches when Oak Ridge stopped Nimitz, I told one of the yearbook photographers I’d give her 100 dollars if we made that stop. It was at a time in the game where people were still thinking Nimitz was going to give Oak Ridge trouble. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be above board to hand over 100 bucks to a high school kid so I’ll just make a donation to Sarah Parker’s yearbook department. I apologize if anyone out there thinks I am being a bad influence. I am sorry and it won’t happen again. Now lighten up!

See you next week for the Bryan game!

Comments to doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. these are courtesy of Jim Eastin and Chuck Briese. The really good ones are from Mr. Eastin.

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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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War Eagles Persevere and Top Spartans 45-42 in Double Overtime

IMG_2393The Oak Ridge War Eagles (3-0) and senior kicker Patrick Coale came through with another W to maintain the War Eagles unblemished record by defeating the Stratford Spartans in double overtime, 45-42 at Woodforest Bank Stadium Friday night.

The talented kicker split the uprights from 43 yards out securing the victory after Oak Ridge had blown a lopsided affair at halftime leading the Spartans (1-2), 35-13.

Oak Ridge’s offense scored on their first five possessions almost at will as Kwami Etwi ran for a six yard score at 7:39. Etwi scored again on an NFL like 29 yard pass at 5:21 from Jacob Norton who once again split snaps with sophomore Braden Letney. The offense was given the scoring opportunity compliments of a DB Nick Lauterbach interception and subsequent 54 yard return to the Startford 29 yard line. Oak Ridge was now up 14-6 but Stratford quickly answered as DeBarron Nixon hauled in a Freddy Price 22 yard pass at 4:50 to pull within a point at 14-13.

It was at this point that Oak Ridge head coach, Dereck Rush briskly walked over to the defensive unit’s part of the bench and lit into his charges telling them to stop somebody. It appeared as if the defensive unit must have got the hint as they didn’t allow another point for the rest of the first half.

Shortly after the tongue lashing, the offensive unit must have decided they didn’t want any part of getting yelled at so Justin Edwards scored on a one yard run behind what is becoming an excellent offensive line. Add Mr. Automatic’s extra point and the score was 21-13 Oak Ridge to close out the first quarter.

After another defensive stop, Letney led the War Eagles down the field on a time consuming eight minute drive culminating with Letney taking the pigskin in from seven yards making the score 28-13 after Coale added the extra point at 4:46.

The defense was ready once again with another stop and Oak Ridge’s offense was in business again. The War Eagles made the Spartan offense pay again for not giving their defensive teammates a long enough breather as Etwi ran for an eight yard score and the Coale extra point made it 35-13 just before halftime.

With the War Eagles safely in front and Darra Pradavan’s award winning Oak Ridge Marching Band digging up the halftime turf, everyone connected with Oak Ridge High School was in LaLa Land, as for the third week in a row their team was safely in front with yet another victory coming real soon. After all, it wasn’t like Oak Ridge 5A football has started the season with three wins every year.

WAIT… As darkness fell and the band, Liberty Belles and Color Guard exited the field, little did everyone know that Mr Hyde was going to take control of the Oak Ridge side of the field while Dr Jeckyll took his place on Stratford’s sideline. An inauspicious second half of football was about to begin for the War Eagles.

Oak Ridge’s first possession resulted in a three and out and the Spartans followed suit. Not much offense from either team was displayed until Startford QB Price engineered the Spartans down the field ending in a Price to Jack Brice 20 yard scoring play with just a few ticks left in the third quarter, making it 35-20 Oak Ridge.

The War Eagles were stopped on their next possession and once again Startford’s Price drove his team down the field and threw a 26 yard scoring strike to Will Bredthauer and the Spartans only trailed by a touchdown, 35-27 with 6:03 left in regulation.

On its next possession, Oak Ridge’s Letney was intercepted by Stratford’s Brice Stephenson who proceeded to return the ball to the Oak Ridge nine yard line.

In wasting no time, Startford scored once more on a Terrence Peters eight yard run with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Stratford went for two and the Price/Brice connection struck again, knotting things up at 35-35.

Stratford had a chance to win the game but kicker Jonathan Dalmas came up short from 37 yards out and it was on to overtime.

To start overtime, Stratford had possession first and quickly scored ala the Price/Brice combo on a 25 yard pass. Dalmas’s kick was good. On Oak Ridge’s turn, they toughed out a scoring drive ending with Letney, on fourth down, taking it in from the one yard line. Coale’s XP was good and the score was 42-42.

On Oak Ridge’s next possession, Coale kicked a 43 yard field goal which proved to be the winning score and Oak Ridge snuck out of Woodforest Stadium with a 45-42 victory.

Norton and Letney combined to go 9-18 for 154 yards. Letney led all Oak Ridge rushers with 64 yards. Lamar Handy wasn’t too far behind with 63 and Demarcus Durst chipped in 58.

Riley McKnight caught a pass to lead the team in receiving yards with 52 followed by Handy, Etwi and Durst with 43, 33 and 20 respectively.

Stratford outgained Oak Ridge in overall yardage 472 to 415. Running back Terrence Peters was a one man highlight reel in reeling in 160 yards on the ground. QB Freddy Price threw for 248 yards on 12-23 marksmanship.

Oak Ridge’s next game is a home non-district tilt against Aldine Nimitz on Saturday, Sept 21 at Woodforest as the War Eagles try to avenge yet another 2012 loss.

Coach Rush elaborated on allowing Stratford to get back in the game: “Hopefully this teaches us to fight through adversity. Our kids fought and fought but we have to do a better job of finishing football games. When we get ahead, we have to stay ahead. Give credit to Stratford, that’s a great football team, they are going to be a playoff team, we have to learn from our mistakes and get back to work.”

Worthy of Note:

The Letney/Norton plan is working. Some skeptics believe the team would be better off picking one guy and going with him 100%. DON’T BE STUPID!!! If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Throwing in two quality QB’s at the opponent makes the opposing team’s time in the film room a marathon. I don’t know about you but I think we should prefer the opposing coaching staff to be half asleep come game time.

Dr Jeckll and Mr Hyde: To those in attendance, it seemed like our squad came back out for the second half playing the sportsmanship role way too early. We all know Coach Rush is all about sportsmanship but seeing as he is a former D-1 football player and winning coach everywhere he’s been, he knows that 22 points is not a big enough cushion with 24 minutes of football remaining in the game. Whatever happened out there you can bet it is being corrected at this writing. You want your inconsistent play to occur before district so you can be ahead of the eight ball.

Clayton Grett continues to play outside linebacker like a man possessed. This kid can flat out play! Nuff said.

There’s one kid that is absolutely the best player at his position that I have seen on this team in seven years. I’m not jinxing him so don’t ask. I’ll tell you when Oak Ridge’s season is over near Christmas time. I knocked on wood right there referencing the War Eagles going deep in the playoffs. Lighten up and stop being so superstitious.

In witnessing Coach Rush and another couple of coaches RAILING the defense and just watching them in general, be glad these guys are on the sideline. These guys are playing the best players at every position the best they can and it is working. Another thing, I GUARANTEE you that politics is not involved in any of their decision making. From what we are hearing and seeing, all of you agree as well.

SHOUT OUT TO TAYLOR COBB AND BRITTNEY CHESTNUT OF THE YEARBOOK CREW! They both write and are also good photographers. Guess what faculty member is in charge of Yearbook… CHEER COACH SARAH PARKER!!! The multi-talented Sarah Parker. We’ll also be doing a story on her cheerleaders led by Meaghan Winterer pretty soon.

As for the Athletic Trainers… You do notice the players are healthy and we aren’t losing players, right? It’s no coincidence that we have awesome trainers.

Let’s not forget the Film Crew. This is one of the most professional groups at Oak Ridge High School. Rush and all of his coaches are very demanding film geeks. The better the film, the better the team plays.

Oh, regarding the tongue lashing Coach Rush gave the defensive unit early on, it was either D-Coord Terry Mills and or LB coach Mac Malone contributing as well. All I can tell you is they didn’t curse but that they did arrive in ill humor. When I was in high school, you got swore at and it didn’t matter one bit. Nowadays, if a coach swears at someone a law suit soon follows and they’re finding ways to get rid of the offending coaches to avoid any flack from overzealous parents. To be honest with you, with how we were coached back in the day, I can’t believe Oak Ridge is 3-0 with no cursing going on. I always thought those two came together. Guess I’m too old school. Anyway, support these guys. Whatever they are doing… is working!

Comments to doug@oakridgenow.com

If you weren’t able to make Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. these are courtesy of Jim Eastin and Chuck Briese. The really good ones are from Mr. Eastin.

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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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