Williamsburg’s assistant coach in the box didn’t see the Yellow Jackets’ fourth touchdown against Oneida on Friday. He was scrolling through Facebook.
The guys in the box are supposed to be the upstairs eyes for the team, picking up nuances that the sideline coaches, with their field-level view, might miss. But when you’re up 18-0, and going up 24-0, and it’s still the first quarter, you might be forgiven if you’re a little tuned out.
In some regards, that’s what Friday’s season-opener felt like — like all the suspense had been sucked out of the game before the first quarter had even ended, and not just because it took more than an hour to complete the first quarter. Williamsburg was flat-out dominating, and had sucked all the excitement out of the atmosphere.
But when you break down the flow of the game, it wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the 24-0 score indicated — or nearly as lopsided as the 50-21 score indicated once the final horn had sounded.
What might the game have been like if Oneida hadn’t fumbled the ball away inside the 10-yard-line as the Indians were driving to potentially cut the deficit to 24-14 in the second quarter? At that point in the game, Oneida had seized all the momentum by scoring, getting a defensive stop, and the Yellow Jackets were having trouble stopping the Indians’ offense.
What might the game have been like if Oneida hadn’t fumbled away on its first two plays from scrimmage? Despite all the preseason talk about how much the Indians are going to throw the football this season, Jimmy May came out intent on establishing the running game. And, from the start, it looked like Oneida could run on Williamsburg. Both of those fumbles occurred not just beyond the line of scrimmage, but beyond the first down sticks, as the Indians ripped off two big runs before the plays ended in disaster.
It was sort of a script of everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong for Oneida to start the game. And the perfect storm had the Indians down 24-0 before the first quarter was over, and 44-14 at halftime. But the point is, this was a game where a wide margin hinged on a handful of unfortunate plays. The Indians turned the ball over five times in the first half. Take away three of those, and it’s likely a neck-and-neck game well into the second half.
Make no mistake, Williamsburg was the better team and would have ultimately won the game. The Indians simply didn’t have an answer for Yellow Jacket quarterback Sydney Bowen, who threw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns on the night. Way too often, the junior QB caught Oneida’s secondary out of position, and way too often, his talented wideouts made exceptional catches.
And there were plenty of other things Oneida will have to work on, penalties being one of them. The Indians were flagged for more than 100 yards in penalties and had way too many personal fouls called against them. There were several off-setting penalties, or the yardage lost to yellow flags would’ve been far greater.
But if there’s anything to take away from Friday’s game, it’s this: Williamsburg is the best offensive football team that Oneida will face this year, at least in the regular season. And Oneida’s running attack looked good enough to create some havoc for opponents this season. The quartet of Rylin Duncan, Matthew Brown, Noah Buttram and TJ Meredith averaged more than six yards a carry, which will be good enough to beat more than a few of the teams on Oneida’s schedule.
A 50-21 loss certainly wasn’t what Oneida envisioned to start off the season, but don’t write off the Indians just yet. That Williamsburg football team has state championship aspirations, and certainly looked good enough to accomplish all of its goals. As for Oneida, there’s still plenty to play for. All of the team’s goals remain intact, and a win over rival Greenback this week would completely erase the bad taste from last week’s lopsided loss in Corbin, Ky.
Oneida, Greenback both need something good to happen
When old rivals Oneida and Greenback get together at Jim May Stadium on Friday, it’ll be a meeting between two teams that are desperate for something good to happen.
The Indians haven’t won a game since Sept. 18, 2020 and are coming off a 50-21 loss to Williamsburg. Greenback only won three non-covid games last season and is coming off a 63-0 loss to Boyd Buchanan.
When was the last time Oneida and Greenback, two of the proudest small-school football programs in Tennessee, met a week after giving up a combined 100-plus points? That’s a rhetorical question, but it has probably never happened.
Yet, this is where we are.
Granted, Boyd Buchanan is a private school, and a traditionally good one, at that. But the Bucs won only three games last season, and were dominated by CAK in the first round of the playoffs. It naturally leads to the question of just how good Greenback — which is also coming off a down year and is breaking in a new coach — will be this season.
The Cherokees finished 5-7 last year, but two of those were covid wins. Greenback only won three games on the field. But the season ended with the Cherokees gaining momentum, winning three straight before a second round playoff loss to Coalfield, including a first round playoff game that saw Greenback put up 63 points on Unaka.
Oneida, meanwhile, has lost six straight games — seven straight if you throw in a covid loss to Coalfield. The Indians’ longest-ever losing streak is 10 games. It’s unlikely they’ll match that streak, even in a worst-case scenario. But rest assured that this is a game that the Indians desperately want.