What a difference a week — and a few sets of bleachers — can make.
Six days after Oneida dominated Scott High in Huntsville, winning 7-1 in a game that didn’t even feel that close, the Lady Highlanders got their revenge in a high-intensity game at Oneida, winning 4-3 on Monday.
In the first game, played at John John Yancey Memorial Park on Sept. 28, Oneida junior Aliyah Douglas cemented her status as the best player in District 3-A by scoring five goals in a Lady Indians rout. Alexea Jones and Jillian Cross also scored goals in that first meeting.
Monday’s match at Jane Terry Hoffman Field was the first time the Lady Highlanders had been on the pitch since that last meeting. Coach Eric Henry, aggravated by his team’s subpar effort, made them spend the rest of the week running bleachers at Highlander Stadium.
In his postgame interview on the IH Sports Network after Tuesday’s game, Oneida Coach Phil Newport said he expected a different Scott High team to show up in the rematch. After 180 sets of bleachers on Wednesday and Thursday, that’s what happened, as Scott jumped out to a 4-1 lead before hanging on for a 4-3 win.
The night didn’t end without controversy. In a match filled with bizarre whistles that both benefited and hurt each team, perhaps the most bizarre of all was a red card that was assessed to Oneida’s Rory Blevins after a slide tackle on Scott High’s Rachel Garrett.
By rule, Blevins was ejected from the game and Oneida was required to play with 10 on the field the rest of the way. Blevins — who is the team’s sweeper — will also be required to miss the next game, which is currently scheduled to be the Lady Indians’ district semifinal game against Rockwood.
Newport said after the game that he is trying to find an extra regular season game for later in the week so that the suspension can be served before the postseason begins.
The Oneida bench was assessed two yellow cards for protesting the red card. Newport was still incensed after the game.
“We lost, plain and simple,” he said. But, he added, “Scott High played a good game. They did a good job of taking their time and taking down the clock, which is good strategy on their part.”
Scott High was also assessed a yellow card, which was given to Alyssa Crabtree after contact just outside the box.
The Lady Highlanders, who had made several changes to their lineup for Monday’s game, got on the board first on a goal by Gracie King that just got by the outstretched hands of Oneida keeper Ayla Sims.
Oneida answered minutes later with a goal by Douglas, who remains hot with 11 goals in the past week, and tied the game.
That’s the way the score stood until the half, with the dust-up on the red card occurring while the score was tied.
There was more bad news for Oneida when Sims left with an injury that occurred on a collision with a Scott player. She did not return, and her status was not immediately clear.
Related: Gallery of photos from Oneida’s 7-1 win over Scott High
But Scott also suffered an injury. Zoey Terry, who was in just her second game back from a knee injury that occurred last basketball season, left in the first half with a pulled groin and did not return.
Scott High opened the second half hot, scoring three goals in quick succession to take a 4-1 lead. Ellie Lowe scored first by sneaking one by the keeper on a follow. Then Mikayla Higginbotham scored on a header off a corner kick by Olivia Rector. Finally, Lowe scored again on a high kick from near the edge of the 18 yard box.
But Oneida was hardly ready to go away. The Lady Indians rallied, with Douglas scoring her second goal of the night — and 11th in the past four games. Then Jillian Cross scored to make the score 4-3 with still 15 minutes remaining.
Oneida dominated possession down the stretch, with several opportunities to tie the game. But Scott keeper Bella Sharp made a number of saves to help preserve the lead.
Finally, in the game’s waning moments, Scott recaptured some momentum, getting off some good looks of their own.
“I’m really proud of the girls and their effort,” Henry said. “We let three goals in, we made some mistakes, and we stabbed way too much.”
Scott High will close out the regular season at Oliver Springs on Tuesday, then travel to regular season district champion Kingston for the District 5-AA semifinals on Oct. 12. If the Lady Highlanders are going to advance to the regionals for a fifth consecutive season, they will have to find a way to beat a Kingston team that mercy-ruled them early in the season.
“My girls did great. I’m proud of their effort,” Henry said. “We’ve got to carry this into next week and the first round of the district. Kingston blanked us down there. Oneida beat us 7-1. We got it handed to us last week. We tucked our tails and we shook hands after the game.
“Unfortunately, they waited til the last week of the season (to play like they know they’re supposed to),” he added. “Now they know they can, so we’ve got to go to Kingston and do it.”
Monday’s game wasn’t much like the first game in Huntsville, which was dominated by an Oneida team that has found its stride late in the season. The Lady Indians put five goals on the board in the first half of that game, before the second half was played close to evenly with a lot of substitutions down the stretch.
Following a three-game skid against Kingston, Cumberland Gap and Anderson County, Oneida won three straight last week by outscoring their opposition by a combined 16-1. Douglas scored nine of those goals, while Jones also continued to play well offensively and was named the First National Bank Player of the Week from Oneida.
On Monday, though, Oneida was left fuming by the sequence of events that played out in the first half.
“There was no malicious intent in any part on Blevins,” Newport said. “She has gotten a yellow card once in 15 games. She has not exhibited play that warrants that kind of call.”
But, he added, “I have no animosity towards Scott High’s players that played tonight. They played hard throughout and I told you they would on our live interview last week.”
Newport credited his team’s resilience, as well.
“They could’ve folded when it was 4-1,” he said. “They didn’t panic and they did a nice job of battling back.”