Dobyns-Bennett's Chris Sensabaugh drags two Oak Ridge defenders while being poked in the eye by another. Sensabaugh made it into the end zone to score the Tribe's first touchdown. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett needed a victory more than revenge but got both Friday night against Oak Ridge in the opening round of the TSSAA’s Class 5A playoffs.
The Indians, becoming the state’s first high school program to win 700 football games, defeated Oak Ridge 21-14 to atone for a 14-7 regular-season loss.
It was the defining moment for a team that had to fight uphill all season. D-B’s seniors earned their first appearance in a second-round game by knocking off the ninth-ranked Wildcats (9-2) for their seventh win in a row.
D-B (8-3) will travel next Friday to play fourth-ranked Farragut (10-1). The Admirals defeated Jefferson County 43-13.
Victory No. 600 for Dobyns-Bennett also came against Oak Ridge, in 1998.
Friday night’s game was filled with big plays. D-B coach Graham Clark was ecstatic over the outcome.
“These kids just kept believing,’’ he said. “They’ve played hard every week. Tonight, our defense didn’t give up big plays and our offense made enough plays to win.’’
The defensive play of the night was turned in by outside linebacker Lane Taylor, who stopped Oak Ridge flash Jared Stephens at the D-B 4-yard line — 4 inches shy of a first down in a fourth-and-4 situation with 3:35 remaining in the game.
Stephens took a direct snap at tailback and dashed to his left. Taylor was waiting.
“Oak Ridge lined up with four receivers to the left and I knew something was coming my way,’’ Taylor said. “Stephens bobbled the snap and I watched the movement of his hips and feet. We’d practiced angles all week.’’
Taylor’s big stop perhaps prevented Oak Ridge from tying the score.
“I can’t tell you how much heart this team has,’’ he said. “We started off 1-3 and Oak Ridge was the last team to beat us. It’s difficult for me to sum up just how much the win means.’’
Quarterback Bart Ring enjoyed his finest hour. After D-B stopped the Wildcats from scoring, he moved his team away from the goal line by racing 13 yards for a first down. Chris Sensabaugh followed with a 16-yard run, and the home team ran out the clock.
“Our offensive line just blew them off the ball,’’ Ring said.
Lane Dukart was responsible for three game-changing plays. Following a specially designed wedge, he took the second-half kickoff 89 yards to set up a 7-yard scoring run by Sensabaugh on third down.
“If Chris had not scored, we would have had to kick a field goal,’’ Clark said.
Dukart also caught an 85-yard touchdown pass from Ring in a third-and-20 situation. Ring’s quick thinking made it work. He sent Jamie Crawford on a post route only to find him covered. Ring pulled in the ball and ran right, stopping just shy of the scrimmage line and hurling the ball to Dukart on the run.
“I was trying to keep from getting sacked and kept my eyes open downfield,’’ Ring said. “I saw Dukart cutting across and got the ball to him.’’
Dukart ran an 18-yard crossing route and became the secondary receiver.
“Oak Ridge was in zone coverage and I saw Ralpheal Coffey, one of the defensive backs, fall down,’’ he said. “Ring hit me with a perfect throw.’’
With 1:14 left to play in the third quarter and Oak Ridge on the move, Dukart intercepted a pass at the D-B 46-yard line with an acrobatic move along the sideline.
“It was so close to being out of bounds I almost didn’t go for it,’’ he said. “I got to the ball and all I could hear was the Oak Ridge coaches screaming at the officials.’’
Dukart’s dazzling return of the second-half kickoff was a thing of beauty. Assistant coach Bill Church couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Taylor, Robert Hogg, Jason Michael, Clayton Kilgore and Austin Morrison formed a human wedge.
“Our line cross-blocked,’’ Church said. “If we get one block in the middle on the wedge, the run opens up. The first time we played Oak Ridge, we received a kickoff late in the game and it was if they snickered by kicking deep to us in a squib-kick situation.’’
Church challenged the return unit at halftime to take one back. “We came out of the dressing room psyched,’’ Dukart said.
Sensabaugh, a 180-pound freshman whose battlefield promotion gave D-B’s season an upheaval, carried 21 times for 111 yards. He scored two touchdowns.
The 16-year-old man-child has 758 yards in 93 carries and is the Indians’ top scorer with 84 points. He credits lineman Daniel Preston’s blocking with much of his success.
“I’m so excited that we won this game,’’ Sensabaugh said. “It’s awesome. We were on a mission and we weren’t going to be beaten.’’
Clark wasn’t convinced at the season’s outset that Sensabaugh was ready for prime time. But his forceful runs in freshman games could not be ignored.
“Coach Clark called me into his office before the Jefferson County game and asked how I felt about moving up,’’ Sensabaugh said. “I told him I’d give it a try. I guess I’m doing all right now.’’
Stephens’ lightning steps for Oak Ridge kept nerves on edge. He rushed 19 times for 149 yards.
“Man, he’s tough,’’ D-B defensive coordinator Darrell Watson said. “We had to stay after him.’’
Clark agreed. “Stephens is a great runner.’’
Oak Ridge scored on two pass plays — quarterback Tyler Clark threw 19 yards to Coffey and 27 yards to Demarcus Rogers.
The Wildcats outgained D-B 333-252 but shot themselves in the foot with four turnovers. Dukart, Justin Sylvester and Reed King each had an interception.
D-B’s own progress was hindered by 75 penalty yards.
Clark said his players dedicated the game to Jon Metcalf, the D-B soccer player who died of an injury this week as the result of an accident.