The star: Ooltewah freshman Omari Kendrick ran for 128 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Up next: Ooltewah (9-2) will host District 5-AAA rival East Hamilton (9-2) again next Friday.
Before the first TSSAA playoff game of his life, Ooltewah freshman running back Omari Kendrick listened very carefully to the advice he received Friday night from Owls senior captain Mike Williams.
In rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns during a dominating first half, Kendrick more than proved he took Williams' advice to heart, helping the Owls cruise to a 47-7 Class 5A opening-round win over visiting Stone Memorial.
"Mike has a lot of knowledge and experience," Kendrick said with a true tone of respect for the captain wide receiver. "I listened to Mike and I knew this wasn't going to be like a regular-season game. I knew I had to just do my job, which is to run hard and to protect the ball."
The next round for the Owls (9-2) will be a rematch with neighboring rival East Hamilton. The Hurricanes, who downed Oak Ridge in the first round, again will travel to Ooltewah, which won the regular-season meeting 28-26.
The Owls were dominant in nearly every phase of Friday's game against Stone Memorial (6-5). They put up 40 points in the first half on 330 yards of offense. Ooltewah's defense, led by Jeremiah Jackson's nine tackles and six assists, held the Panthers to three first downs before halftime.
Of the first seven passes thrown by Stone Memorial, only one attempt was complete for minus 3 yards and another was returned for a 53-yard touchdown by the Owls' Adrian Hall to complete a 33-point second-quarter avalanche.
The Owls, who punted once in the game, kept the Panthers out of the end zone until the final minute of the game.
"I was pleased in how we played in all phases of the game," coach Mac Bryan said. "It's just like we have said all year. We told them that tonight was the biggest game of the year. And thing is now that it's survive and advance, you have bring your 'A' game, and we did."
Following a first quarter that produced a lone touchdown on a Brody Binder 6-yard pass to Anthony Turner and another drive that ended with an Owlsfumble inside the Stone Memorial 5, Kendrick began to assert his presence. The freshman tailback accounted for all 63 yards in an eight-play drive that ended with his 3-yard score.
On the next possession, sophomore tailback Rashaun Freeman scored on a 83-yard dash down the right sideline. Binder then capped a seven-play, 60-yard drive with 3-yard scoring run, and the barrage of second-quarter points ended with Hall's interception return 42 seconds before halftime.
Stone Mountain's Nathaniel Clanton spoiled the shutout with a 2-yard TD run in the final minute.
"We do have seniors who made some major contributions, but we are still a young football team," Bryan noted. "We've got some young players who have played a lot of good football this year."
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