Last week’s outcomes were disappointing for Oneida and Scott, but in the grand scheme of things, relatively unimportant.
What happened against York Institute and Karns won’t much matter when November rolls around. But what happens this week will. Because now both the Indians and the Highlanders are getting into the heart of their region schedules. And the playoffs are on the line.
Oneida has already secured a playoff berth, and has only two region games remaining. The Indians, who are 2-0 in Region 2-2A, with wins over Cumberland Gap and Wartburg, will host Rockwood this week in what is a de facto battle for a first round playoff game at home.
Rockwood has already played Meigs County, and lost. The Tigers still need to beat Cumberland Gap and Wartburg to get into the playoffs, but the earlier loss to Meigs County helps set the stage for this week’s showdown at Dr. M.E. Thompson Field.
With a win this week, Oneida can finish no lower than second in Region 2. The top two teams get first round playoff games at home. However, a loss to Rockwood will leave Oneida needing to defeat Meigs County in two weeks to force a potential three-way tie atop the region.
The Indians will host Meigs County on Oct. 13 for a game that will essentially be a region championship game.
Of the two games, this week’s battle with Rockwood is the most important. The Indians need to secure the first round game at home. It makes a difference between hosting Hampton, South Greene or Cosby in round one, or traveling to Happy Valley or Sullivan North. There is a big difference between the two scenarios. Happy Valley has already beaten Hampton and Cosby by combined scores of 102-0, while Sullivan North has beaten Cosby and South Greene by combined scores of 96-27.
Scott High, meanwhile, carries a 1-1 region record into the heart of Region 2-3A play, needing at least two more wins to secure a postseason berth.
The battle for playoff eligibility begins with Austin-East visiting Highlander Stadium this week, and continues with a trip to Kingston next week.
Austin-East is 4-1 on the season, its only loss being a narrow, 20-14 loss to Fulton. Kingston, meanwhile, is 5-1. Its only loss was a 36-6 loss to Austin-East.
Scott will not be bounced from the playoff race even if it loses the next two games. The real tests are likely to come in the final two weeks of the regular season, against Northview Academy and Pigeon Forge. Barring an upset somewhere along the way, beating those two would get Scott into the playoffs.
But if Scott can pick up a win in the next two weeks, against either the Roadrunners or the Yellow Jackets, the Highlanders will have a big leg up in the playoff race, and won’t enter the last two weeks of the season with zero margin for error.
Avoiding a shutout
Entering Friday’s game at York Institute, Oneida hadn’t been shut out since Midway defeated the Indians 25-0 on Sept. 29, 2006 — a stretch of 129 games. But as time ticked away, the Dragons seemed determined to end that streak.
When Oneida turned the ball over on downs with 1:52 remaining, it appeared that a shutout was imminent. But Evan Roberts forced and recovered a fumble on the next play, giving the Indians’ offense one last shot at points.
There was just one problem: Oneida had substituted its younger kids into the game on offense, while York was keeping its starters in on defense. After a 13-yard run by freshman Kolby Morgan and a 15-yard penalty against the Dragons moved the ball to the 22-yard-line, York actually burned a time out to rally its defense, intent on preserving the shutout.
But two plays later, Morgan scampered around the left side of the line and broke free for a 22-yard touchdown run, as the Indians’ JV offense managed a score against York’s starting defense to avoid the shutout.
Oneida coach Tony Lambert had praise for his freshman running back after the game.
“Kolby’s got such great vision when he has the ball in his hands. He’s a one cut and on the gas type of guy. Some of that you can’t teach. You can teach ball security and things like that, but vision you can’t teach. It’s a gift,” Lambert said.
Proud of their teams
It has been a difficult season for Scott High, which dropped to 1-5 with a loss to Karns last week. But after that 30-7 defeat, Highlander head coach Keith Shannon made it clear that he is proud of his football team.
“Even if it’s a losing effort, I’m very, very thankful that we’ve got a room full of young men that continually come back to something that is hard, something that is difficult,” Shannon said. “It’s too common for people (to walk away) when things are going tough, and things are going tough when you’re not winning games we’re used to winning. The uncommon characteristic that’s resonating in our locker room is the young men who are continually coming to work.
“I tell you, win, lose or draw, I like the young men in our locker room,” Shannon added. “They keep coming, they keep fighting, and as far as I’m concerned, if they keep doing that, that will be good enough.”
Shannon’s remarks were similar to what Lambert had to say about his team after Oneida lost at York. As he implored fans to pack Jim May Stadium for this week’s important region showdown with Rockwood, Lambert stuck up for his team.
“Don’t give up on these kids,” Lambert said. “They fought and they played hard. I tell ‘em every day, I’m glad I coach y’all and not somebody else.”