Winning the Region 4-5A football championship assured Soddy-Daisy of home-field advantage through at least two rounds of the TSSAA state playoffs. Winning a first-round matchup against Clinton assured the Trojans of a chance to put that privilege to full use.
But it was ninth-ranked Oak Ridge that looked quite comfortable at Robert Talasky Field on Friday night, overpowering the Trojans for a 40-23 win that sent the Wildcats into the quarterfinals and ended Soddy-Daisy's season.
Trojans quarterback Gavin Chambers did not start due to an injury sustained three weeks ago against Signal Mountain, and the Oak Ridge defense took full advantage of the senior's absence in the first half. The Trojans (6-5) were held to just three points during the first two quarters, when the Wildcats' offense obliged by racking up four touchdowns for a 24-point lead.
"With us being unsure of how Gavin was feeling, we decided to stick with what we've been doing the past couple weeks because it's been good to us, but we probably stuck with it too long," Soddy-Daisy coach Justin Barnes said
"They're a very talented defense and overall team," Barnes said of Region 3 runner-up Oak Ridge (10-2), which will host Region 4 runner-up Knoxville Catholic (11-1) next week. "We thought we'd be able to come out and run the ball a bit, but it was just hard to get anything going."
In what ended up being his last high school game, Chambers took the reigns of the Soddy-Daisy offense to start the second half and led the Trojans on an 11-play drive that ended with his 35-yard touchdown pass to Kesean Eubanks.
However, on the next play from scrimmage, the Trojans' night was summed up when Oak Ridge running back Jordan Graham took an option pitch and sprinted 65 yards for one of his four rushing touchdowns in the game.
"They have so many weapons," Barnes said. "With the offense they run, if you get caught looking in the wrong direction, somebody is hurting you from the other side. It's hard to defend, and they do a great job with it."
Contact John Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.