ONEIDA | After two near misses, Oneida got on the winning side of things at the best time on Friday: Against a region opponent, and at home.
The Indians’ defense shone brightly in a 30-6 win over Wartburg at Jim May Stadium Friday evening. The Bulldogs scored on a fourth down play early in the second quarter, but couldn’t find the end zone again after that, as Oneida forced six turnovers and limited Wartburg to fewer than 200 yards.
Meanwhile, Oneida’s offense woke up late in the second quarter, with a touchdown that sparked things in the most improbable way.
Leading 7-6, Oneida faced third-and-38 after back-to-back penalties, and Caden Rector found Colten Daugherty deep. Daugherty made the catch and then did the rest, scoring a 62-yard touchdown to give the Indians all the momentum.
Rector finished 12 of 18 through the air, sparking Oneida’s offense on a night when rushing yards did not come easy against an improved Wartburg team.
Disaster struck for Wartburg when Peyton Smart intercepted a pass — the third pick of the first half for the Indians’ defense — and returned it inside the 10-yard-line. That set up Elijah Phillips’ second touchdown run of the night, giving Oneida a 21-6 halftime lead.
The second half saw Rector score on a 20-yard run, for a 28-6 lead. Then, after a Wartburg miscue pinned the Bulldogs deep on the kickoff, Smart came up with a stop in the end zone to extend the lead to 30-6.
Late in the third quarter, Wartburg was inside Oneida’s five-yard-line, but fumbled the ball away. Oneida’s offense then took over, controlling the ball for the remainder of the game. The Bulldogs did not get a chance to touch the ball in the fourth quarter.
“It was good to get a win,” Oneida coach Jim May said. “We’ve been so close the last couple of weeks. We felt like we let those two slip away, but we keep practicing and I keep telling them that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Oneida had negative yardage on the ground in the first half, but began to find some running room in the second half. That was especially crucial in the fourth quarter, when the Indians controlled the ball for the entire 12 minutes.
“I just thought it was a good game,” May said. “We weren’t perfect; we made mistakes. But we’re getting better. And we want to keep getting better each week. You don’t want to play your best ball at the beginning of the season.”
May said that his team, which has faced significant injuries early in the season, is beginning to gel.
“We’re starting to put some plays together,” he said. “I’m just proud of them, the way they came out and played. I told them that 0-2 is 0-2, but we don’t want to be 0-3. If you want to go to the playoffs, you gotta win this game. And we did.”