If offense entertains and defense wins championships, as the old adage implies, Oneida’s 10-0 win over Bledsoe County at Jim May Stadium on Friday was just the kind of boring game that makes coaches proud.
The Indians scored one touchdown — a two-yard plunge by Johnny Manis midway through the second quarter — and then tacked on a 32-yard field goal by Rhemci Chitwood as the first half clock expired before settling back to let their defense take care of the rest.
On a night when offense was hard to come by for either team, with the Indians and the Warriors combining for fewer than 300 yards, it was Oneida’s defense that made headlines.
The Indians forced four turnovers, limited Bledsoe County to four first downs, and did not allow the Warriors to take a single snap on the plus side of the 50.
In fact, the Warriors did not push the ball into Oneida territory until their final offensive play of the game, and that one ended like several before it — the Indians ripping the ball free to force a turnover. Bledsoe County finished the game with five fumbles.
“We were ripping and snipping and knocking,” Oneida head coach Tony Lambert said. “We knocked some of the balls loose and we ripped some of the balls loose. I was probably as pleased with that as anything.
“I thought we tackled well when we got there, too,” Lambert added. “I thought we played super.”
Bledsoe County’s defense wasn’t exactly shabby. The Warriors limited the Indians to 177 yards, held them to 3 of 13 on third downs, and twice stuffed the ball on crucial fourth-and-short plays with their backs against the wall. The interior of Bledsoe County’s defensive front limited Oneida’s formidable rushing attack to a paltry 2.6 yards per try.
“I’m disappointed in that, but if you look at what they’ve got across the front, they’re big,” Lambert said of his team’s inability to run the football with success. “We’ve got to find a way to take advantage and do some things running the football. In high school football you have to be able to run the ball.”
While its defense was forcing turnovers, Oneida’s offense wasn’t able to capitalize by turning those turnovers into points. But, midway through the first quarter, the Indians were able to capitalize on a short punt by the Warriors.
After coming up just inches short of the goal line on a fourth down attempt, Oneida held Bledsoe County to a three-and-out, then took over at the Warriors’ 36-yard-line and put together a five-play drive for points. Manis scored on first-and-goal from the two after a 13-yard pass from Elijah West to Josh Orick, giving the Indians all the points they would need.
Later in the first half, Oneida went to the air in its two-minute offense to move the ball into scoring position, setting up Chitwood’s 32-yard field goal as the horn sounded.
“We call that our Nascar tempo,” Lambert said. “We decided to go in it and be aggressive to see if we could get something on first and second down. We had a couple of nice throws and catches to keep the sticks moving. We wanted to come away with something and I thought that was a great job by our field goal team.”
With the two-possession halftime lead, it seemed doubtful that Bledsoe County would be able to seriously threaten in the second half, and the Warriors were in fact unable to mount a comeback. After 41 yards of offense in the first half, Bledsoe County had just 66 yards in the second half, and were not able to put together a single sustained drive.
The win handed Oneida a record of 6-3 heading into this week’s season finale against arch-rival Coalfield.
“Coalfield is still Coalfield,” Lambert said of the rivalry. “They’re well-coached with a good, rich tradition and good players. I hope we can hold up our end of the deal. I know they will, and I hope we can. It’s just a good ol’ rival game. They want to beat us really bad and we want to beat them really bad.”