MONTEREY, Tenn. | A year ago, Oneida bounced back from a loss to Rockwood by upsetting Monterey to get itself back into the chase for the Region 2-2A championship.
At one point early in the second quarter of Friday's game at Monterey, it looked like a repeat might still be in the offing. The Indians had just scored on a season-long 44-yard field goal by Luke Barna, cutting Monterey's lead to 7-3.
The Wildcats had scored on their opening possession when Matthew Montgomery hooked up with Eli Saylors on a 23-yard pass. But the Indians' defense had stepped it up after that, keeping Monterey out of the end zone for the remainder of the first quarter.
But after Barna's kick got the Indians on the board, Monterey struck back with dizzying speed. Montgomery broke free for a 66-yard run to make it a 14-3 lead, and then the Wildcats scored with only 23 seconds remaining in the first half on what would prove to be a backbreaking touchdown, a five-yard run by Mason Bowman.
The Wildcats would go on to build a 35-3 lead in the fourth quarter before Oneida finally found the end zone on a 28-yard pass from Caden Rector to Josh Cole. Cole's first career touchdown made it a 35-9 game, but Monterey answered right back, with Bowman breaking free for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 42-9.
Oneida, which has relied on its defense for much of the past two seasons, has given up 40-plus points in back-to-back weeks, with much of its opponents' success coming on the ground. Monterey rushed for 384 yards on 33 carries, averaging 11.6 yards per carry.
Bowman finished with 200 yards on the ground, while Montgomery had 137.
Monterey got into a third down situation just four times, did not punt, and failed to score on just one possession.
Some of Oneida's struggles on the defensive side of the ball the past two games is attributed to a lack of depth due to injuries.
On the flip side, the Indians' running game continued to struggle, netting only 67 yards on 25 carries.
However, Rector had another solid game through the air, completing 17 of 26 passes for 173 yards.
Sophomore Levi James was Rector's top target, with five catches for 64 yards. Seniors Tait West and Westen Hurst each had four receptions.
Another bright spot for the Indians: only one penalty, for five yards. Oneida also had success on its only two punts, with Reice Kennedy averaging 45 yards per kick.
Elijah Phillips was the defensive leader, with 10 tackles. James finished with six stops. Caleb Harness and Caden Terry each had five tackles.
Oneida turned to its younger players to finish the game, and found success in penetrating deep into Monterey territory before time expired with Oneida on the 16-yard-line.
The loss solidifies Oneida's fourth-place standing in the region, meaning the Indians are looking at a trip to upper East Tennessee to face Hampton, the state's top-ranked team in Class 2A, in the first round of the playoffs.
“Our biggest concerns was Bowman carrying the ball and Montgomery at quarterback keeping it on the read,” Oneida coach Jimmy May said. We just didn't tackle either one of them very well. They moved the line of scrimmage on us and played downhill, and we had a hard time compensating for it.”
May said his team moved the ball well in the first half, despite a couple of dropped passes.
“We just couldn't put it together,” he said. “We had a hard time blocking them. They were pretty good up front.”
Oneida was playing without two of its leading receivers, Jeric Huling and Colten Daugherty.
“t's just hard because we had four starters who didn't play tonight,” May said. “I'm not making excuses, it's just facts. It's just what this season has been so far.”
May said his team is not going to give up on the season.
“You've just got to keep playing,” he said. “You owe it to everyone, and we will. We'll come back and work hard. We'll come out Monday and try to fix it, and we'll be ready to go Friday.”