CORBIN, Ky. — Williamsburg’s do-it-all quarterback, Sidney Bowen, scored on a seven-yard scamper with 4:00 to play, then added the two-point conversion himself, lifting the Yellow Jackets to a come-from-behind, 28-27 win over Oneida in the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic here Friday evening.
Oneida led most of the night — “We just never could extend the lead,” Coach Jimmy May said later — but penalties were a back-breaker late, as Williamsburg made its surge.
The Indians played a clean first half, but finished the game with 11 penalties for 89 yards. Many of those came in the fourth quarter, as fatigue became an issue for both teams.
Williamsburg was awarded 30 free yards on its go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter, thanks to two 15-yard penalties against Oneida.
Then, after the Indians picked up a first down near midfield in their attempt to move into field goal range late, they were flagged for back-to-back holding calls, turning a 1st-and-10 into a 1st-and-35, which effectively ended the game.
“If we could’ve gotten around the 30, we would’ve had a shot with Luke (Barna),” May said. “But it’s hard to do when you have 1st and 35 because of holding.
In the same game last year, Williamsburg dominated, thanks in large part to five turnovers against the Indians.
This time around, it was a much cleaner game for Oneida. The Indians did not have a turnover in Friday’s game. Instead, it was Williamsburg who battled turnovers. Oneida recorded four take-aways, three times intercepting Bowen. Junior cornerback Landon Limburg had two of those picks.
But Williamsburg was able to overcome the turnovers, thanks in large part to Bowen. While the senior wasn’t especially effective through the air — though he did have a 53-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter — he was deadly on the ground. He finished with 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries, multiple times using his legs to extend drives for Williamsburg.
Oneida was without its starting tailback, TJ Meredith, and lost another key player, Jeric Huling, to injury as the game progressed.
In the absence of Meredith, the Indians struggled to move the ball at times on the ground, although senior transfer Westen Hurst was impressive in his debut, finishing with 64 yards on 14 carries.
Oneida especially struggled to advance the ball on the right side of the field.
Caden Rector was Oneida’s top offensive weapon. The junior finished 8 of 17 through the air, for 92 yards and a touchdown. He had 69 yards and another touchdown on the ground, carrying the ball 10 times.
“We played hard,” May said. “I’ve been preaching to them all winter and summer that it was going to be different next time. I said we may not win, but it’s going to be a lot different.”
Oneida scored first, with Peyton Smart scoring from a yard out late in the first quarter.
Williamsburg quickly answered on a 53-yard pass from Bowen to Ben Hale.
In the second quarter, Rector scored on a 15-yard scramble, giving the Indians a 14-6 lead. But Williamsburg was able to tie the game just before the half, when Bowen scored on a 33-yard keeper and then found Cade Hatcher for a two-point conversion.
Oneida regained the lead early in the third quarter, when Elijah Phillips scored the first of two touchdowns, plowing into the end zone from two yards out.
Williamsburg again answered, with Hunter Thomas scoring on a four-yard run. But the extra point failed, leaving Oneida with a 21-20 lead.
A key moment came early in the fourth quarter. Rector found Phillips for a well-executed 16-yard touchdown, but the extra point was blocked, giving Williamsburg an opportunity to win the game with a two-point conversion after a score.
The Yellow Jackets did just that. Bowen scored from seven yards out with four minutes to play, then kept the ball on the conversion to give his team its first lead of the night, 28-27.
The Indians were still in good shape, thanks to Williamsburg’s struggles in the kicking game. A short kickoff and a 12-yard carry on the next play gave the Indians a first down near midfield. But then the holding penalties set Oneida back, and the ball went over on downs three plays later.
“Overall, a loss is a loss, and I’ll take the loss; it’s my fault,” May said. “But it’s a little different from last year because last year we didn’t give ourselves a chance.
“I thought we had a good game plan. We just got in some situations where we didn’t make tackles in the open field, and I thought those killed us,” he added. “I thought it was two good teams playing. I’m proud of the kids. They played their tails off tonight.”