Through the first five games of the 2022 campaign, the Wildcats have been ravaged by injuries.
Oak Ridge (3-2 overall, 2-0 in Region 3-5A) had its open date in Week 6, and first-year head Coach Scott Cummings is hoping that the bye was what his team needed to heal and prepare for the second half of the season.
“We’ve got to get well and (Sept. 16) things actually got worse,” Cummings said. “We lost both our starting center (Jermaine Blair) and our starting quarterback (Peyton Sharpe). We hope that we can get those guys back.
“Against Lenoir City, we lost Blake Steed, our inside linebacker, for the season. But the good thing is Connor Cummings is looking to be released and hopefully, Elijah Rogers will be released.”
Cummings, the coach’s son, suffered a broken collarbone in the preseason jamboree, and Rogers, a wide receiver and defensive back, was injured in the Wildcats’ Week 2 loss at Bearden.
Things won’t get any easier for Oak Ridge, which has a season-opening victory over South-Doyle and region wins over Clinton and Lenoir City. The Wildcats were shut out against Farragut and had a comeback effort fall just short at Bearden. Oak Ridge, which had three consecutive home games, hits the road Friday night as it travels to Powell to tangle with defending Class 5A state champion Powell (4-2, 2-0) in a key regional showdown at Scarbro Stadium.
The Panthers opened the season with back-to-back losses to Anderson County (6-0) and Class 6A powerhouse Maryville. Powell, however, has won four straight and is coming off Friday’s 33-3 victory in a non-region game against Emory Road rival Halls.
Powell starting quarterback Jordyn Potts was injured against the Mavericks and missed the game against the Rebels.
He returned to the league opener against Karns. Now, with the Tennessee Tech commitment back, the Panthers are hitting their stride.
“Jordyn Potts is back, running around and doing his thing,” Cummings said. “And if you look at Powell, their team looks a lot like last year.
“When they started, they struggled defensively. Anderson County scored a lot of points on them. Then, they were able to hang with Maryville and they held a really good, really athletic Clinton team in check.”
Defensive lineman Steven Soles Jr. is one of the area’s top defenders and he terrorizes opposing offenses. “They’ve gotten better defensively and the Soles kid is a great player,” Cummings said. “He’s really scary. He plays with tenacity and intensity. He doesn’t take plays off.”