GREENEVILLE — Amid controversy surrounding several questionable calls and an incident involving the host school’s chain crew (see related column, page B1), South Greene put up 330 yards of total offense and scored three second half touchdowns to upset Oneida in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs on Friday, 23-21.
The Rebels made a pair of two-point conversions, which proved to be the difference in a game that went from defensive in the first half to offensive in the second half.
Oneida led 7-0 at halftime, using a scoop-six by Matt Terry on a doomed punt attempt by South Greene in the second quarter to take the lead to the locker room despite being limited to a single first down and 30 yards of offense by the Rebels’ defense.
The second half saw both offenses get on track. South Greene scored quickly to start the third quarter, then put another score on the board to build a two-possession lead. On each of their first two scores, the Rebels successfully converted two-point conversion attempts.
Oneida was never out of the game, though, until South Greene fell on an onside kick attempt in the final minute, allowing the Rebels to run out the clock on the 23-21 victory, which earned them a trip to Decatur to face top-ranked Meigs County in the quarterfinals.
It marked the first time any Greene County School System high school had advanced to the state quarterfinals.
South Greene did it, primarily, by moving the football against an Oneida defense that didn’t give up many yards over the course of the season. The Rebels finished with 313 yards of offense, and their 23 second half points were the most given up by the Indians in the second half all season.
Quarterback Levi Myers finished with 149 rushing yards on 21 carries, while completing five of eight passes for 71 yards and a score.
Neither team got on the board until the 4:24 mark of the first half, when Oneida dialed up its aggression and went after a South Greene punt. The ball was poked free of the punter, and Terry recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead that would stand until halftime.
Neither team’s offense threatened to score in the first half. Oneida had only one first down, which came on its opening possession. South Greene did not cross the 50-yard-line until late in the second quarter.
But things changed quickly in the third quarter. Myers found Tristan Biddy for a 33-yard score on the second play after a long kickoff return, giving the Rebels an 8-7 lead after the two-point conversion.
The Indians finally got their own offense cranked up on the ensuing possession, marching quickly into South Greene territory. But a bizarre sequence near the Rebels’ 30-yard-line ultimately resulted in a turnover on downs amid controversy. Oneida appeared to pick up the first down on a third down pass from Elijah West to Ben Lambert, and again on a fourth down run by Zach Couch. Photos and video showed Lambert progressing past the first down marker on third down before the ball was spotted short of the line-to-gain, as well as the sticks being moved on fourth down.
South Greene took advantage of the breaks, swiftly marching the length of the field to score again. Myers scored on a one-yard run, then found Damien Starnes on the two-point try to build the Rebels’ lead to 16-7.
Oneida would answer, with Colby Boyatt beginning to assert himself in the Indians’ rushing attack. Boyatt, who finished with 53 yards on six carries, capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run to cut South Greene’s lead to 16-14.
The Indians then stopped the Rebels and got the ball back, taking over at their 17-yard-line as the fourth quarter began. But the drive stalled before it even began. A 6-yard gain on first down was negated by a controversial penalty, and the Indians eventually punted it back to the Rebels.
There was more controversy on the ensuing possession. Facing a third-and-three at midfield, South Greene was gifted a first down on another questionable call, and would go on to punch the ball into the end zone on a 35-yard pass from Myers to Caleb Perkins. Kyle Ofeldt’s extra point gave the Rebels a 23-14 lead with 5:09 to play.
Oneida moved swiftly back into South Greene territory, but an apparent interception in the end zone snuffed out the scoring threat.
The Indians’ defense wasn’t done, however. Oneida forced South Greene into a 3-and-out, and marched downfield to score on an 8-yard pass from West to Kolby Morgan with 1:03 remaining.
The last touchdown cut South Greene’s lead to just two points. But Oneida had only one timeout remaining, and its onside kick attempt was recovered by the Rebels.
After the game, Oneida head coach Tony Lambert praised his team’s seniors.
“There’s some fine young men on this team,” Lambert said. “They haven’t been the fastest or the biggest but I tell you what they are: they are a fine bunch of gentlemen. I admire them. We try to build husbands and fathers and just quality individuals and quality men.”
Lambert’s son, Ben Lambert, is one of the seniors.
“As I look out there tonight I see my little boy,” Lambert said. “He’s the last one. He’s one of them seniors. Just what football has meant to him and his friends, those seniors. And what football has meant for our family.”