BY BRIAN HAMILTON
OAK RIDGE – South-Doyle put last year in the rearview mirror, where the Cherokees were shut out 14-0 against Oak Ridge in the Class 5A state semifinals, to defeat the Wildcats 28-20 on Thursday night.
“It’s a really big confidence booster and it helps us find that we can compete,” South-Doyle head coach Clark Duncan said. “It’s a non-conference game between two really good programs.”
Shawn Gary ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns to lead South-Doyle to victory, while Brandon Heyward finished with over 200 yards receiving for Oak Ridge.
The Cherokees move down into Class 4A Region 2 this season, but were not afraid to take on the Class 5A Wildcats in a grudge match.
Oak Ridge drew first blood in the first quarter, as Peyton Sharpe picked off South-Doyle quarterback Nick Martin for a pick-six to put the Wildcats ahead 7-0.
The Cherokees answered later in the first, when Shawn Gary went into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:25 left in the quarter. The teams were knotted at seven apiece after one quarter of play.
South-Doyle returned the favor in the second quarter, as Jamichael Hamm picked off Oak Ridge and returned it 78 yards for a score just before halftime to give the Cherokees a 14-7 advantage at the intermission.
Oak Ridge would tie the game at 14-14 with 4:13 left in the third quarter when quarterback Hayden Tarwater found Brandon Heyward for a touchdown on 4th-and-19.
Heyward added another touchdown in the third quarter, from 59 yards out on a tipped ball, giving the Wildcats a 20-14 advantage with 1:51 left in the third. The extra-point attempt was no good and Oak Ridge led by six after three quarters.
Another Shawn Gary touchdown run would put the Cherokees back in front 21-20 with 10:04 remaining in the game.
Down 21-20, Oak Ridge took over at their own 23 with 1:17 left, but another pick-six put South-Doyle ahead 28-20 with 30 seconds left to play. The score made for the third pick-six of the game, with Oak Ridge returning one for a score and two for South-Doyle.
The Cherokees would hold on to win the game 28-20.
South-Doyle (1-0) will host Grace Christian next Friday, while Oak Ridge (0-1) will host Bearden.