South-Doyle kicks off season with 28-20 win at Oak Ridge
‘Kees, now in 4-A avenge last year’s playoff loss in Rivalry Thursday opener
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - What you might expect from the first game of the season. Some unforced errors, in fact, five turnovers as the Oak Ridge Wildcats and South-Doyle Cherokees continue to play early in the third quarter.
Those turnovers include three fumbles and two interceptions, both of those of the pick-6 variety. The first came on the game’s first drive, as Jaedem Eleam steps in front of a Nick Martin pass and takes off to the end zone to give the home team a 7-0 lead. Following a short Shawn Gary TD run, the second pick-6 came courtesy of the ‘Kees Jamichael Ham who with 15 second left in the half steps in front of a Hayden Tarwater pass and returns it 80 yards for a touchdown giving the Cherokees a 14-7 lead at the half.
Whatever Oak Ridge head coach Joe Gaddis said at the half-time break worked on his kids. The Wildcat offense came out flinging the football. The combination of Hayden Tarwater to Brandon Heyward would work twice for big TD plays, the second covering 59 yards. The point after touchdown was no good as Oak Ridge takes a 20-13 lead late in the 3rd quarter.
That missed PAT would prove to be costly and South-Doyle would mount a 4th quarter drive capped off by another Shawn Gary TD run. With the kick the Cherokees would regain the lead by a point, 21-20. But would it hold up?
The answer would be yes! Thanks to a strong defensive showing down the stretch including yet another pick-6, this one courtesy of D’Mon Marable, the Cherokees would win it 28-20 and open the season 1-0.
Rivalry Thursday and the 2021 football season kicks off for East Tennessee high schools tonight with the first regular game in the county. South-Doyle and Oak Ridge will meet in a rematch of last season’s 5A semifinal, a game the Wildcats won 14-0.
Head coach of Oak Ridge Joe Gaddis said he is well aware of the Cherokees, however.
“South-Doyle has most everyone back off of that 2020 team,” he said. “They were a play or two away from playing for a state title last year, so we know what we’re up against.”
South-Doyle will return the majority of their starting lineup, including running back Shawn Gary.
“Shawn was one of my best coaching decisions in my career,” Cherokees head coach Clark Duncan said. “He was a backup wide receiver when we started the 2020 season. Thanks to some key injuries we needed to find someone to run the football. So, I called Shawn into my office the third week of the season and told him we were going to give him a shot in practice. The first time we handed him the ball we knew instantly what we had.”
Gary is now a Mr. Football candidate in 4A, which South-Doyle moved down to following a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association reclassification.
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