DECATUR, Tenn. — No. 1 played like No. 1 on Friday. And there wasn’t a whole lot Oneida could do about it.
Meigs County, the state’s top-ranked team in Class 2A, rolled to a 35-0 win over the Indians to claim the Region 2-2A championship, dominating both sides of the football along the way.
The Tigers’ defense limited Oneida (5-3, 3-1) to just 78 yards of offense, and the Indians were shut out in a regular season game for the first time since a 25-0 loss to Midway in 2006 — a streak of 122 games. Oneida’s only chance to score came on a 31-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Meigs County (8-0, 3-0), meanwhile, racked up 364 yards of offense while turning in several big plays that have been uncharacteristic of the Indians’ defense this season.
Oneida head coach Tony Lambert referred to Meigs County as a “well-oiled machine.”
“They’re a good football team,” he said. “They’ve got all the pieces. They’re good up front, they’re good on both sides of the ball. They have dynamic players at every skill position.”
Meigs County’s standout runningback, Martin Smith, had 121 yards on 13 carries before being carted off the field with an ankle injury late in the second quarter. Quarterback Aaron Swafford, who was a Mr. Football finalist as a sophomore last season, added 85 yards on 10 carries and completed 4 of 9 passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
There were times when Oneida had players in the right positions, but Meigs County’s playmakers simply did that — make plays.
“I thought we had a good plan defensively,” Lambert said. “We had players in position to make plays a lot of times, and I don’t know if it was ability or what, but we just didn’t make a play.
“Sometimes I don’t know if we had the confidence that we could make the plays,” he added. “That gets in your head sometimes. But it was a good learning experience for them.”
The Indians were handicapped after losing standout running back Bryson Buttram to a season-ending leg injury in their last game against Rockwood. Buttram had surgery earlier in the week and is not expected to be cleared to return to sports for up to five months.
In Buttram’s absence, sophomore Kolby Morgan received the bulk of the offensive touches for Oneida, finishing with 38 yards on 13 carries against a Meigs County defense that was easily the best faced by the Indians this season.
If there were positives to take away from Friday’s game, Morgan averaged over 44 yards on seven punts, and amassed 104 return yards on four kickoffs, averaging 26 yards per return.
“I thought we did some good things in the special teams tonight, if that’s a consolation to anything,” Lambert said. “I would’ve liked to have seen us make the field goal; that was a pretty lame effort on our part. But punting, kick coverage and kick returns, I thought we were solid.”
Meigs County quickly started the game with a score, driving 64 yards in eight plays before Smith scored on a 13-yard run.
That was the only score of the first quarter, as it turned out. Hunter Barnhart stepped in front of a Swafford pass on the goal line and picked it off to prevent the Tigers from taking an early 14-0 lead.
Things began to get out of hand in the second quarter, however. Smith scored on a 24-yard run early, followed by a 37-yard pass from Swafford to Jon Jon Beeler to make the score 21-0 with just under four minutes to play in the half.
In the final minute of the first half, Swafford scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was executed almost perfectly and was keyed by another long pass from Swafford to Beeler.
The Tigers’ final score came on a 22-yard pass from Swafford to Gabriel Maldonado midway through the third quarter.
Oneida’s field goal attempt at the end of the game was set up by a Colby Boyatt fumble recovery and return into Meigs County territory.