After Saturday night’s gutsy effort in Norman, Okla., how can you not respect Justin Worley?
Play after play, hit after hit, Worley kept trotting back onto the field. As Oklahoma’s defensive front, loaded with NFL prospects, demolished Tennessee’s extremely green offensive line, it was open season on the Vols quarterback. And Worley just kept on standing in there and taking the punishment. He was sacked six times — one of which was wiped off by a penalty — and hit many more times than that.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn’t often have praise for anything associated with the Southeastern Conference — which he openly loathes — but he had plenty for Worley after Saturday’s game.
“I made sure I saw him after the game,” Stoops said. “He is a really good quarterback. He throws it well and really showed a lot of toughness.”
Kirk Herbstreit, who served as color analyst for ABC’s broadcast of the game, added, “Worley is a fighter.”
But the most impressive thing about Worley wasn’t the fight he had in him — though that was certainly impressive. It was his demeanor towards his youthful offensive line.
As Worley took hit after hit and sack after sack, Worley didn’t one time criticize his line. Instead, he offered only encouragement to his linemen on the field. Off the field, after the game, his attitude was the same.
“Our offensive line did a good job,” Worley told reporters. “I’m proud of them. They did a good job.”
That’s pure class — pure class from a quarterback who has spent four seasons listening to fans say he’s not good enough to be a quarterback in the SEC.
Defense, Oneida style: Four games into the 2014 football season, Oneida has given up more than one touchdown in a game only once — allowing Rockwood to score twice in the season opener. The Indians held Hampton and Watertown to one touchdown, and shut out Wartburg.
Needless to say, that will likely change this week, as Oneida visits Greenback — a team Indians coach Tony Lambert calls the best team his squad has faced this season.
Still, Oneida ranks first in points given up among Tennessee’s Class A schools that have played four games. The Indians have given up 29 points this season. Only Midway (20) and Jo Byrns (21) have given up fewer, and each have played only three games. Beyond Oneida are Jackson County and Cloudland, having given up 35 points each.
Defense, Scott High style: Scott has also relied heavily on its defense through the first four weeks of the season. Like Oneida, Scott’s defense will be put to the test this week, when they face the most explosive offense — CAK — they have faced this season.
The Highlanders entered last week’s game against Wartburg having given up fewer points than any team in the state, with the exception of East Nashville (0 points) and Sevier County (6 points).
Entering the midway point of the season, Scott’s 15 points allowed rank fourth in the state among teams that have played four games, behind East Nashville (0), Fulton (9) and Chattanooga Central (13). Livingston Academy has given up only 14 points, but has played only three games.
Alternative uniforms: Oneida took the field against Watertown Friday in gray uniforms — “smokey gray” uniforms. It marked just the second time in recent memory that Oneida has taken the field in an alternative color; the other time was in black against Wartburg in 2010.
“I hope you liked the smokey grays tonight,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said after the game. “If you didn’t, the kids did. And that’s why I’m in this business.”
Looking to reverse a streak: The Oneida-Greenback rivalry has always been a series of streaks, dating back to when the two teams first met in 1979. Here lately, the streak has belonged to Greenback. The Cherokees have won four in a row against Oneida, dating back to 2010’s 17-7 win. Last year, Greenback won 42-38 in a Thursday night thriller televised regionally. Before 2010, Oneida had won six straight in the series, including two in 2008 — once in the regular season and once in the Class A state playoffs.
Attitude: When CAK visits Huntsville Friday night, the Warriors will do so riding a 5-0 series advantage. Not only has Scott never beaten CAK, but the Highlanders have never gotten within 21 points of the Warriors. Last year, Scott was unbeaten until CAK dropped a 47-7 loss on the Highlanders in West Knoxville.
Regardless of the outcome of this week’s game, Scott coach Keith Shannon feels his team’s attitude towards being able to win against one of the state’s top teams has gotten better.
“Definitely,” Shannon said when asked about his team’s attitude improvement. “We would definitely expect our kids to feel like they can play with CAK. We’ve talked about this game. We’ve talked about this being one of those games that you live for, as a player — the chance to play a game that is meaningful and has a lot riding on it.”
Injuries: Oneida wingback Jacob Adams is feared to have a torn ACL, an injury that would be season-ending if confirmed. Lambert said Sunday that Adams will undergo an MRI this week . . . Oneida wingback Nate Bowling (knee) was said to be questionable for Friday’s game against Greenback. Preliminary evaluations indicated a sprain . . . Scott quarterback Billy Hall (knee) will be back for Friday’s game against CAK after missing the last two games.