JAMESTOWN — A single possession in the second quarter summed up Oneida’s game against York Institute here Friday.
Leading 6-0, York took possession at its nine-yard-line with 7:57 remaining after a booming, 60-yard punt by Oneida freshman Kolby Morgan. The Dragons moved steadily up the field with a relentless misdirection running attack, and 14 plays later found the end zone with just 35 seconds remaining before the half to take a 14-0 lead.
That was the way it went for York Institute — which one week earlier had come within a missed two-point conversion of upsetting the state’s No. 6 team in Class 3A, Smith County, on the same field. Friday’s game against Oneida would not come down to such late-game dramatics. Instead, the Dragons overpowered the Indians, 28-7.
“There ain’t no doubt that was a good football team,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said. “They’re probably the most sound team I’ve seen in a couple of years. I thought we had a good plan going into the game. We were just out-matched a little bit tonight.”
York’s offense was every bit as good as advertised. The Dragons finished with 313 rushing yards, with seven different runners teaming up to average 5.8 yards per carry. And when they needed to throw the ball, the Dragons did that well, too. York converted six of nine third downs and a couple of fourth downs to make it difficult for Oneida’s defense to get off the field.
But the Dragons’ defense was just as good as their offense. Oneida did not complete a pass for the first time this season, was zero of eight on third downs, and did not surpass 100 yards of total offense until the game’s final possession.
“If you get behind the sticks on offense and you don’t get any first downs, it’s going to make for a long night,” Lambert said.
It was indeed a long night for Oneida’s defense. York dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 30 minutes to just over 17 minutes for the Indians. With their defense on the field for extended periods of time, the Indians appeared to wear down as the game progressed, allowing York to rip off two big touchdown runs late in the game.
Defense was not a problem for Oneida in the first half. Instead, it was York’s defense that gave the Indians fits, allowing the Dragons to take a 14-0 lead to the half.
York scored one of those touchdowns on a short field after an Oneida fumble, and needed to convert a fourth down to do that. But the second touchdown, which saw York cover 91 yards in 14 plays, proved to be a key sequence.
The Indians had started the game by forcing York into a turnover on downs when Drew Crabtree came up with a fourth down sack of Landrick Leffew. But after Oneida picked up one first down, Ethan Probst forced a fumble, which the Dragons recovered and converted into points. The touchdown came on a five-yard scramble by Leffew after a fourth-and-seven conversion.
Oneida’s defense turned back York for a second time as the second quarter began. When the Dragons decided to test Oneida deep, Benji Lambert came up with an interception at the eight-yard-line.
While Oneida was able to pick up just one first down, Morgan flipped the field with a 60-yard punt, appearing to put the Dragons behind the eight-ball at the midway point of the second quarter. But 14 plays later, Dawson Threet scored on a three-yard run, followed by Leffew’s run to convert a two-point play, giving the Dragons a 14-0 lead that would prove to be more than enough.
York again converted a fourth down to start the second half, but Dakota Chambers forced a fumble that Ethan Sexton recovered on the next play. Oneida, though, was unable to move the football, and the Dragons’ rushing attack began to assert itself. Probst broke free for a 52-yard touchdown on third down. Later, York broke off another big run, with Cole Cooper going 41 yards for a score to push the lead to 28-0.
At that point, with 6:04 remaining, Oneida chose to insert younger players on offense. York opted to keep its starting defense on the field, hoping to preserve the shutout.
The Indians’ first drive was somewhat promising, but eventually ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down. But just one play later, Evan Roberts forced and recovered a fumble at midfield, giving the Indians possession again.
Three plays later, Morgan scored on a 22-yard run to help Oneida avoid its first shutout in 130 games.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Lambert said. “We fought hard, we played hard, we never quit. We kept coming. They just big-played us a couple of times.”