ONEIDA | The Indians were missing one of their most important weapons, and it showed.
Down Nick Gilbert, who suffered a broken leg late in a region semifinal win over Sweetwater two nights earlier, Oneida struggled to find consistency offensively in Thursday's Region 2-A championship game, falling to Loudon, 4-0.
That the Redskins, who were able to avenge last year's region title game loss to Oneida, won Thursday's game wasn't too surprising in any of itself, though the Indians were certainly the favorite on paper. But that the visitors controlled the game as thoroughly as they did might have been.
Gilbert, who had one of the most prolific seasons in program history, scoring 26 goals, was lost to a broken leg in the 61stminute of the Indians' 4-0 win over Sweetwater. Without him, Oneida not only missed the scoring ability but also the field leadership of one of its captains. The Indians looked shell-shocked early, as Loudon controlled possession and tempo, and turned that into a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 11th minute.
That's the way things stood for the longest time. Oneida evened up possession as the first half progressed, and then controlled possession early in the second half. The Indians had several set pieces through corner kicks and free kicks, but were unable to capitalize.
A Loudon goal 15 minutes into the second half appeared to take the wind out of the sails for the Indians. Even though the Redskins would play the final 25 minutes with only 10 men on the field — a red card was assessed for excessive celebration after the second goal — they were able to score another goal less than 90 seconds later, then scored again with just under 15 minutes remaining.
With the win, Loudon will return home to host Gatlinburg-Pittman in the Class A sectional on Saturday. The Indians' state tournament hopes will have to go through Alcoa; Oneida will visit the Tornadoes, who defeated Gatlinburg 5-1 on Thursday.
Kickoff of Saturday's Oneida-Alcoa game is scheduled for 6:30pm.
Oneida 4, Sweetwater 0
ONEIDA | The Indians scored a decisive win in the Region 2-A semifinals here Tuesday (May 16), but paid a heavy toll in the process.
Oneida defeated Sweetwater 4-0 at Jane Terry Hoffman Field. But with just under 20 minutes remaining, senior Nick Gilbert — the Indians' top offensive player this season — broke his leg in a collision with a Wildcat fullback near the end line.
Mason Keeton scored a goal to tie the school record for career goals. He now has 60 for his career as just a junior, tying his first cousin, Danner Keeton, who lost a year of play due to covid and also battled several injuries that cost him time.
Also scoring for Oneida were Gilbert, Levi James and Luke Barna.
“It was a bittersweet victory losing our captain to a broken leg,” Oneida coach Derek Keeton said. “He was having a phenomenal season. He has led us all year going back into the winter workouts. He is a warrior that will be difficult to replace, but I am confident because of his leadership and how he has invested into developing the rest of his team members we will be okay.
“We are all just hurting for Nick right now,” Keeton added. “Please pray for that young man.”
Keeton said his team's defense was outstanding, and credited the play of Wes Hurst, Wyatt Yancey, Gavin Keeton and Reice Kennedy.
“They have become very consistent and are communicating extremely good,” Keeton said.
The head coach added that his offense moved the ball effectively in the first half to build the 4-0 lead.
“That was with several other scoring opportunities that were just missed,” he said. “The second half was definitely impacted by Nick's injury and Sweetwater's desire to compete.”
At halftime of Tuesday's game, Oneida honored its program's current and past record-holders. Grant Swain, who once held school records for career assists (51) and goals (49) was honored. So was Danner Keeton, who broke Swain's goals record (60), and Gabe Hacker, who broke Swain's assists record (55).
Keeton said that a wall of fame will be displayed at the soccer field house, recognizing the program's district and region champions, substate teams, and record holders.