Physicality. That’s what Eric Cavaliere said his Oak Ridge High Trojans prepared for this week leading up to Friday’s home game against Nevada-power Reed.
Football games are always won or lost in the trenches, where the grunters and grinders do the dirty work that allows skill players such as Oak Ridge quarterback Marco Baldacchino to keep his jersey clean and looking pretty.
The Trojans were the more physical team and stopped a three-game losing streak to the Raiders with a 24-21 victory.
Reed beat the Trojans 55-34 last season and 54-42 in 2015, both times in Sparks, and 26-14 at Oak Ridge in 2014.
“I’m really proud of our guys tonight, they came out with the attitude that they were going to be the more physical team,” Cavaliere said.
The Trojans were led by Eli Otero and Devin Kemp on the defensive line and Bailey Smith, Bryan Catchings, Greg Masegian and Carson Starr on the O-line. It was Baldacchino who went for a 77-yard scoring run after bursting through a hole up the middle created by Smith and Catchings. Later, he stayed upright long enough to deliver a 10-yard scoring strike to Austin Jarrard.
“The score shows that we were a little more physical tonight,” Baldacchino said. “We prepared well all week and I’m just so proud of my guys. They played a hell of a game.”
Oak Ridge is on a bye next week, so the Trojans can rest and prepare for the brutal Sierra Foothill League schedule. Five of The Bee’s top six teams are in the SFL: No. 1 Folsom, No. 2 Granite Bay, No. 3 Oak Ridge, No. 5 Del Oro and No. 6 Rocklin.
“We wanted to play someone from out of the area who would give us the most (SFL)-like program that we could get and Reed has definitely answered the call for that,” Cavaliere said. “They’re a very strong program and have given us everything we could handle and more.”
Reed had won five consecutive Northern Nevada 4A Regional championships before losing to Damonte Ranch of Reno in the title game last fall.
Reed runs the spread offense but quarterback Cameron Emerson struggled. Justin Poerio had two interceptions and flustered Reed’s defensive backfield as Baldacchino found him on several long throws along the sidelines.
“(Poerio) did everything tonight,” Cavaliere said. “He just does everything in all three aspects of the game and, flat out, he’s the best player in the area.”
Cavaliere looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after finally beating Reed. The last three seasons his Trojans entered the SFL with the loss. This year, they’ll enter with momentum. Baldacchino said after the victory his team is ready to dominate the SFL.
“The SFL is the toughest (league) in Northern California,” Baldacchino said. “We played Reed for a reason and that was to get us ready for the SFL. We’re ready.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.