Tony Lambert doesn’t like homecomings.
In truth, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find many high school coaches who do like homecomings. But you might not find any who likes them any less than Lambert.
The Oneida head coach has made no secret of his disdain for homecomings, and he touched on the subject again after his team struggled to avoid an upset loss against Harriman on Friday.
“We did homecoming since 8:30 this morning,” Lambert said. “I’m not going to apologize for what I’m saying. It’s a coach’s nightmare. Every coach deals with it.”
Lambert said his Harriman counterpart, Travis Tapp, said his school does homecoming differently. All of the festivities away from the game take place on Thursday. That sounded pretty good to Lambert.
“Maybe we need to start doing this on Thursday,” he said. But, he acknowledged, “They probably don’t give me a decision on that, and that’s okay, too.”
Still, Lambert said, there was no doubt that the distractions of homecoming affected how his team played against Harriman.
“When kids get out of routine, I’m telling you, they’re not the same. They never are,” he said.
Oneida dedicates its new field
First Jimmy May choked up as he talked about his father’s dedication to Oneida High School and the outpouring of support his family has received from the Oneida community amid a move to name the school’s football stadium in memory of his late father. Then P.A. announcer Kevin Acres choked up as he formally welcomed a pregame audience — for the first time — to Dr. M.E. Thompson Field at Jim May Stadium.
It was an emotional night at Oneida on Friday, as coaches, players, administrators and members of the May family gathered at midfield prior to the Indians’ homecoming game against Harriman to officially dedicate the newly-christened Jim May Stadium.
After Oneida put the final touches on its 13-7 win over Harriman to complete the evening, Lambert spoke about what a “special night” it was for the Oneida program.
“I’m so happy for the May family,” Lambert said. “Just the passion, what the May family have done for Oneida football and what it’s meant to them.”
Jimmy May is a long-time coach at Oneida, having started under his father. He has been the offensive coordinator for the duration of Lambert’s second stint with the Indians, which began in 2012.
Lambert also credited the Oneida Special School District’s board of education with formally naming the stadium.
“I appreciate our school board taking a stand and doing the right thing,” he said. “I tell our players all the time, it’s never too late to do the right thing. That’s the big thing.”
Now that it’s done, Lambert said, Jim May would be the first to want to avoid the issue becoming a distraction.
“Let’s move on,” Lambert said. “I know what Coach May would say. He’d say, ‘Coach, you better get those boys down there blocking and tackling.’ I worked for him; I know what he was like.”
No living in the past
Highlander head coach Keith Shannon knows a thing or two about history. It’s his livelihood; he teaches history at Scott High School.
But if there’s one thing Shannon knows about history that’s perhaps more important than anything else, it’s this: you can’t dwell on it.
“I’m a history teacher but I don’t live in the past; I live looking forward,” Shannon said after his Highlanders fell at Grainger on Friday, 38-21. The loss dropped Scott to 0-4 on the season, but Shannon said his preference is to look ahead, at what might be, rather than behind, at what has already happened.
“I’m not going to get dragged down by what’s happened in the past. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead and I’m excited about that,” Shannon said.
So what is ahead for Scott High? Five Region 2-3A games, and a postseason berth that is still very much in play. Shannon, the second-winningest coach in Scott High history, knows a thing or two about slow starts that lead to postseason berths and he remains determined to get this year’s team there.
“We’ve dug ourselves out of holes like this before and we’ll do it again,” Shannon said.
Shannon knows it takes only one win to flip the script, and that’s his goal as the Highlanders prepare for a long road trip to Gatlinburg-Pittman this week, where the region slate will begin in earnest.
“We’ve got the ability. It’s in our hands,” he said. “That’s what our work and our efforts are going to go towards, is to fix this situation. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Still no second half scores
In 96 minutes of second half football this season, no one has scored a touchdown on Oneida in the third or fourth quarters.
Harriman came close, advancing inside Oneida’s 20-yard-line for what might have been the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game. But, in the end, the Indians turned them away. Logan Stephens completed the late-game stand with a sack at the 24-yard-line as the Indians held on for a 13-7 win.
The first quarter touchdown given up by Oneida was just its third on the season. The other two came at the hands of Gatlinburg-Pittman. The Indians have still allowed only one rushing touchdown all season.
For Oneida, the playoff math in the five-team Region 2-2A is simple: with a win over Wartburg already under their belts, the Indians can secure a postseason berth by winning at Cumberland Gap this week.
No matter what happens the rest of the way, even if Oneida loses to both Meigs County and Rockwood — the Indians’ two remaining region opponents after this week — and even if Cumberland Gap and Wartburg were to spring major upsets over both Rockwood and Meigs County, it would be impossible for Oneida to fall lower than fourth place with a win over the Panthers this week.
In Region 2-3A, meanwhile, the playoff picture remains far less clear, with more teams vying for the four postseason slots. But one thing is for sure: Scott’s only region game thus far has been against Alcoa, which is far and away everyone’s pick to win the region. That means everything is still up for grabs for the Highlanders in the remaining games against Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Kingston, Austin-East and Northview Academy.