Death. Taxes. Oneida Middle School football championships. Things you can count on in East Tennessee.
Oneida’s middle school Indians captured their sixth consecutive Area II championship Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, winning the Class AA crown with a 22-6 win over Jacksboro.
Oneida was in control from the very beginning, with Matt Hood recovering an onsides kick to begin the game.
Big runs by Seth Cross and Toby Hacker — the latter a fourth down conversion — set up an Evan Roberts touchodwn run from two points out. Hood added the two-point conversion, giving Oneida an 8-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Jacksboro answered with a touchdown of its own, scoring on a pass covering 29 yards. But Cody Watson intercepted the two-point conversion pass in the end zone to keep Oneida on top, 8-6.
After a fumble recovery at midfield on the ensuing kickoff, Jacksboro had an opportunity to take its first lead of the night. But Blake Queener came up with a tackle short of the first down on fourth-and-inches, forcing the ball over on downs.
From there, the Indians were able to get to the locker room with the 8-6 lead intact, thanks in part by another fourth down run by Hacker after Oneida elected to go for the first down at its own 21-yard-line.
Oneida again fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, but Seth Cross recovered for the Indians at the 32-yard-line. From there, three consecutive runs by Cross gave Oneida a first down at Jacksboro’s 35-yard-line. A couple of runs by Roberts later, Oneida was moving the ball into scoring position. Roberts did the honors from three yards out, and Cross added the two-point conversion run, capping a six-minute drive and giving the Indians a 16-6 lead late in the third quarter.
An interception by Hood at Oneida’s 28-yard-line ended Jacksboro’s next scoring threat. And, facing third down, Roberts broke free for a 42-yard run to give the Indians a first down deep in Jacksboro territory.
Although Oneida would ultimately turn the ball over on downs, Jacksboro had possession inside its 10-yard-line, and the clock was on the Indians’ side. Jacksboro was unable to move the ball, and Roberts scored his third touchdown of the day two plays later to give Oneida a 22-6 lead.
After an intentional grounding call due to pressure by Drew Crabtree and Luke Manis on the ensuing possession, Jacksboro found itself facing fourth and 23. On the fourth down play, Queener applied pressure to force a quick throw, which was batted down by Laken Porter.
Oneida coach Heath Sexton said his line — offensively and defensively — was the unsung hero of Saturday’s game. Made up of Austin West, Luke Manis, Dakota Chambers, Titus Foust, Tate Strunk, Logan Stephens and Drew Crabtree, the offensive line cleared big holes for Oneida’s runners throughout the afternoon.
“We dominated the line of scrimmage,” Sexton said. “We averaged nearly seven yards per carry on offense and on the defensive side we controlled it while playing only three down linemen (Crabtree, Manis and Stephens, with another set consisting of Jonah Sexton, Strunk and Beau Phillips). That freed up our linebackers and secondary to roam and make plays.
“Our staff did a good job of putting kids in position to make plays and the kids stepped up and made those plays when it mattered.”
Oneida was making its eighth overall appearance in the TMSAA championship game, all under Sexton’s tenure since 2003.