Oneida scored 22 unanswered points Thursday to overcome a first half deficit and defeat Norris, 30-14, for an unprecedented sixth consecutive trip to the Area II championship game.
Evan Roberts was a workhorse for Oneida. The eighth grader scored all four of the Indians' touchdowns, and added one two-point conversion on the ground and another through the air.
Norris was unable to get Oneida's offense off the field. The Senators' lone break came when an onsides kick attempt after a first quarter touchdown caught the Indians' front line off-guard and resulted in a recovery. That enabled Norris to score two touchdowns in the span of 52 seconds to grab a 14-8 lead.
Moments later, Norris had Oneida in a fourth-and-eight situation and appeared set to get the ball back. But a dead ball, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Senators kept the Oneida drive alive and the Indians capitalized with a touchdown to tie the game heading into the half.
The Indians dominated the second half on either side of the football.
The game started with Austin West returning the opening kickoff to midfield. After converting one third down and a fourth down, Roberts scored on a three-yard run and added the two-point conversion to give the Indians an 8-0 lead.
Norris struck right back. After a fourth down offsides penalty against the Indians gave them a first down inside the five, the Senators scored on a keeper by quarterback Ryan Moog. Christopher Powell carried the ball in for the two-point conversion, tying the game at eight.
After recovering the ensuing kickoff, Norris struck quickly on a 38-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Hodge, leading 14-8 after the two-point try failed.
But Oneida would answer, converting three fourth downs — two by penalty, including the unsportsmanlike conduct call — before Roberts scored from seven yards on third and goal. The two-point try failed, leaving the game tied at 14.
Norris appeared to have one last shot at the end zone before halftime, moving quickly into Oneida territory. But Lance Williams made a touchdown-saving tackle on a pass completion from Moog to Kirby Logan at the 25-yard-line with just seconds remaining, and the final play of the half was an interception by West.
The pick appeared to give the Indians all the momentum heading into the lockerroom, and Oneida did not disappoint in the second half. Norris was held without a first down in the final two quarters, including the opening possession of the second half, which saw a fourth down pass overthrown by Moog.
That set up another Roberts touchdown to give the Indians the lead for good. Oneida twice converted on fourth down, including a beautiful run by Roberts on fourth and nine and another first down run by Matthew Hood. The touchdown came from 12 yards out on third down. Isaiah Bridges then found an open Laken Porter tight-roping the side of the end zone for a two-point conversion pass-and-catch, giving the Indians a 22-14 lead.
A big stop on third down on Norris's subsequent possession forced the Senators to punt on fourth-and-20, and Oneida went right back to work at its 39-yard-line with 7:43 to play. Roberts continued to impress, converting a third down with a big run to the Norris 40, then breaking two tackles for a 33-yard gain to the 12-yard-line. The touchdown came on a one-yard carry by Roberts, who then lobbed a two-point conversion pass to give the Indians a 30-14 advantage.
Norris's final possession saw consecutive sacks by Lucas Manis and Logan Stephens, setting up a fourth-and-34, which saw Moog's pass fall incomplete.
Oneida will face Jacksboro at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville on Oct. 26 with the Area II championship on the line. Jacksboro defeated the Indians earlier this season, snapping a win streak that spanned parts of four seasons and more than 20 games for the Indians. Oneida coach Heath Sexton will be making his eighth overall appearance in the championship game, dating back to 2004. The Indians have won the last five.
Also on Thursday, two other local teams came up short in their bid to reach the championship game. Burchfield fell to Coalfield, 45-6, in one Class A semifinal, while Huntsville came up short against Grace Christian Academy. Sam Cooper's Rams were looking for their first-ever title game appearance, while Stephen Burress's Bears were attempting to make their fourth consecutive appearance.