HARRIMAN — Five turnovers spelled doom for Oneida here Friday night, as the Blue Devils used a big second half to upset the state-ranked Indians, 19-7.
Oneida controlled the first half of the game, except for the turnovers. But what might have been a dominating lead for the Indians at halftime was instead a 7-7 tie. And once Harriman seized the momentum in the third quarter, Oneida was unable to wrestle it away.
Harriman, which already had a win over Class 3A Kingston before knocking off the state’s No. 7 team in Class 2A on Friday, was able to completely shut down an Oneida rushing attack that was averaging more than 300 yards per game.
The Indians had 108 rushing yards in the first half, but were limited to just five yards on six carries in the second half. With Harriman controlling the clock and field position, the Indians were forced to throw the ball, and that didn’t work out any better, as Oneida finished two-of-14 for 63 yards. One of those completions was a 69-yard bomb from Elijah West to Trace Sexton for the Indians’ lone touchdown. The other went for a six-yard loss.
“We did some good things tonight,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said after the game. “The problem was we did more bad things. With five turnovers, it’s hard to beat anybody.”
The first half stats told a story of Oneida domination, despite the even score. The Indians had 177 offensive yards to Harriman’s 68. The Blue Devils’ lone score had come off one of those turnovers — an interception returned for a touchdown — and the Indians had three scoring opportunities thwarted by turnovers.
The second half, though, was completely different. With Harriman rolling up just over 200 yards of offense in the final 24 minutes, Oneida’s second half total was minus four yards of total offense.
Harriman broke off a 50-yard run on the first play from scrimmage after the third quarter resumed, scoring two plays later to take a 13-7 lead. Then, another Oneida turnover gave the Blue Devils the ball back, allowing them to score on a 42-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-27 play.
After that, the Blue Devils struggled to move the ball against Oneida’s defense. But the damage had been done.
“Defensively, with the exception of that one pass down in the end zone, I thought we played our tails off,” Lambert said. “Offensively, I didn’t feel like we brought it.”
Lambert said the Indians did not have a great week of practice, with lightning twice interrupting their preparations.
But, he added, “That didn’t cause us to put the ball on the ground, that didn’t cause us to throw it to them, that didn’t cause us not to protect, that didn’t cause us to give up the deep ball on third down. I just didn’t feel like our team looked like Oneida tonight. That falls on me.”
Oneida received the game’s opening kickoff and was driving when Harriman’s Giovanni Cromwell stepped in front of a pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown to give the Blue Devils an early lead.
Oneida struck back, though, with West and Sexton hooking up for a 69-yard touchdown bomb after Sexton slipped behind the Blue Devil secondary.
That’s the way the score stood until halftime. Oneida had a fumble inside the red zone and had another interception on Harriman’s side of the field late in the half, ending scoring opportunities.
Kylann Love completed a 50-yard pass to Cromwell on the first play of the third quarter, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run by Trezdin Copeland, and the Blue Devils led 13-7 after a missed extra point try.
An Oneida fumble gave the ball back to Harriman, and the Blue Devils scored on a 42-yard pass from Love to Bradley Frost after being backed up on third down.
“I’ll be honest, I thought I’d see a few more tears out there,” Lambert said afterwards. “I didn’t see that. That bothers me.”
But the coach added that he expects his team to bounce back.
“Our kids have been known to be resilient and our coaches work hard,” he said. “My job is to try to get them to bounce back and see what we can do. If our kids prove to be what I think they are, we’ll come back ready to play.”