A series of Oneida miscues and a hard-nosed Rockwood defense contributed to a forgettable second half of football at Jim May Stadium on Friday, as the Indians came up on the short end of a 27-7 decision against the Tigers in an important Region 2-2A showdown.
Oneida (5-2, 2-1) and Rockwood (4-3, 1-1) were tied at the half, 7-7, but the Tigers scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second half as the Indians turned the ball over four times and struggled to move the ball offensively.
A bizarre sequence five minutes into the second half turned the game on its nose. After Rockwood scored to take a 13-7 lead, Oneida was preparing to punt and mishandled a snap, giving the Tigers possession on the one-yard-line. But on the next play, Rockwood fumbled the ball into the end zone. As Oneida ran the ball out of the end zone, the Indians fumbled the ball back to the Tigers at the 12-yard-line, resulting in a scoop-and-score for Rockwood to increase the lead to 20-7.
“We crumbled to the Rockwood Tigers tonight,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said afterward. “It’s on me. I’ll tell you right now, we failed, and it’s on me.”
Oneida had taken an early lead, with a 13-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by a three-yard Evan Roberts touchdown run.
Rockwood answered with a 16-play, 60-yard drive, with powerful fullback Ryan McCain scoring from four yards out to tie the game.
That’s the way the score stood at the half, after Oneida drove the ball deep into Rockwood territory on the ensuing possession only to see the drive stall after a holding penalty.
That penalty would prove to be a foreshadowing of things to come, as a series of miscues that included a bad snap, turnovers and penalties left Lambert saying at one point in the second half that his team “blew our toes off.”
Rockwood started the second half with a two-yard touchdown run by McCain after a long pass set up the score. That was followed by Trey Treadway’s scoop-and-score on the Oneida fumble to give the Tigers a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Oneida’s defense played well for much of the rest of the second half, but Rockwood was able to tack on a fourth quarter score when Nate Brackett connected with Joe Ashburn for a 56-yard touchdown pass and run.
The Indians’ offense, meanwhile, struggled to move the ball in the second half. Oneida finished with just 132 yards of total offense, only 39 of which came in the second half. The Indians had negative yardage in the third quarter, and until their final offensive possession of the game had more penalty yards than total offense in the second half.
Quarterback Elijah West finished as the Indians’ leading rusher, with 35 yards on the ground. Roberts added 32 yards.
Rockwood was led by Zander Price’s 69 yards, while Brackett completed five of seven passes for 154 yards.
“That’s the worst whipping (Rockwood coach John Webb) has ever given me, and I don’t think I’ve ever whipped him that good,” Lambert said. “I’d just like to have another chance to see if we can get him.”
If that happens, it would be in the postseason. Lambert alluded to 2012, when Rockwood defeated Oneida early in the season, only to see the Indians avenge that loss in the playoffs.
“They’re going to be a playoff team and we’re going to be a playoff team,” Lambert said. “If we get a chance to split, I’d rather get them in the playoffs.”
Friday’s loss, however, may have put the Indians behind the eight-ball for a playoff rematch. Oneida must beat Meigs County, the state’s top-ranked Class 2A team, to have a shot at hosting a first round playoff game next month. Lambert said his team has two weeks to figure out what went wrong and how it will approach that game against the Tigers.
“We have two weeks to prepare for the best team in the state,” Lambert said. “There are two ways to look at it: that’s a long time to dread them, or that’s a long time to wait to get this taste out of our mouth.”
After their first 5-0 start in nine years, the Indians have lost back-to-back games as they head into the open date. That does not set well with Lambert.
“Losing two games doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the way we’ve played the last two games that has bothered me. We’re getting hit in the mouth and we’re taking it. That’s the part I don’t understand.”