COOKEVILLE — Oak Ridge quarterback Mitchell Gibbons said one game doesn’t make a season.
That’s why Gibbons preferred to look at the big picture after the Wildcats went down in defeat 28-7 to Summit Friday in the BlueCross Bowl Class 5A state championship game at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
“We wanted to come out on top, but you’ve got to look at the positive side,” said the Oak Ridge senior.
“No Oak Ridge team has made it here (to the state championship game) in the last 15 years. It was quite an experience.”
The Wildcats were looking for their first state title in 29 years, but they ran into a talented and physically superior Summit team led by twin brothers Destin and Keaton Wade. Both are juniors.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Destin Wade ran for two scores and tossed another touchdown pass as the Spartans jumped to a quick 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
Wade, who is being recruited by numerous Power 5 schools, ran for 93 yards on 14 carries and completed 7 of 10 passes for 135 yards on his way to earning MVP honors.
“It’s tough to contain a quarterback like that,” said Oak Ridge lineman Jaxon Adams.
“The Wade brothers are big-time players”
Keaton Wade led the Spartans defensively with seven tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss.
Keaton is a 6-5, 210-pounder who is also on the wish list of at least 16 schools, including LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Slow start sinks OR
The Spartans (14-1) jumped on the Wildcats (11-4) early, scoring on their first two possessions to go up 14-0 with 4:27 to play in the first quarter.
Summit drove 72 yards in nine plays on the opening drive with Wade running in for the touchdown from the 2.
He capped the second drive with an 18-yard TD toss to Brady Pierce.
Summit made it 21-0 with 5:48 to play in the first half when Wade scored on a 3-yard run.
The Wildcats scrambled to play catch-up from there.
“We’re down 14-0 early,” said Wildcats coach Joe Gaddis.
“You can’t do that against a good football team like that. We didn’t play our best football game, but they had something to do with that. They have a great football team.”
Oak Ridge closed the gap to 21-7 at the half on a 2-yard pass from Gibbons to freshman receiver Brandon Heyward on a fourth-and-goal with 1:26 remaining.
The Wildcats were still in the game at the half despite giving up 21 first downs to Summit and being outgained 260 yards to 61.
The Spartans got the only score of the second half on a 29-yard interception return by Brady Pierce at the 11:01 mark of the fourth quarter.
Wildcats sputter on offense
Inconsistency on offense, a theme for much of the season, cost Oak Ridge against the Spartans.
The Wildcats picked up only seven first downs and managed only 24 yards on the ground.
Gibbons was 15-of-34 passing for 121 yards.
Jaylen Heyward led Oak Ridge in receiving with five catches for 38 yards.
Brandon Heyward had four grabs for 26 yards.
Summit limited Oak Ridge running back Kendall Jackson to 43 yards on 14 carries.
“They’ve got three or four guys on defense that look like they could play in college tomorrow,” said Gaddis.
Gibbons said the Spartans came in highly motivated.
“They were a very aggressive and well-disciplined team,” said Gibbons.
“It seemed like they had a sense of what we were doing.”
End of the road
Oak Ridge saw its nine-game winning streak and storybook year end, but it was a season to remember for the Wildcats.
“We were 2-3 in the middle of September and won nine straight,” said Gaddis.
“Nobody gave us a chance to get this far. This is one of my favorite teams of all time.”