ONEIDA | The middle school Indians defeated their district rival Cumberland Gap 3-2 to start the evening at Jane Terry Hoffman Field. Thursday's night cap wouldn't be anywhere near that close.
By the time the horn sounded at halftime of the high school game that followed, Oneida had built a commanding 9-0 lead — enough to invoke high school soccer's mercy rule, ending the game at the intermission.
The Indians got two goals each from Nick Gilbert and Levi James, scored before the game had hardly gotten started, and didn't let up, although coach Derek Keeton subbed liberally throughout the 40-minute stanza.
“We challenged our boys on one to two touches only,” Keeton said. “We've been carrying the ball too long, and I thought we did great with one-touch passing tonight. Our challenge tonight was put it out in space and let our speed make plays, and that's exactly what they did.”
Keeton said he was especially pleased with the way his bench players responded when they got into the game.
“Our younger guys came off the bench and looked like they had been practicing and were prepared and ready to play soccer. I loved that,” he said. “We were up 9-0 and they were out there battling. That's awesome as a coach to see.”
Keeton said it was a good team win.
“I am very pleased with our leadership,” he said. “We have great team leadership and great team chemistry. You can see that out there.”
Thursday's game was a rematch of last year's district championship game, which the Indians won by six goals. If it was a preview of this year's district championship game — and it very well may have been, since Cumberland Gap has already defeated Rockwood and Harriman in league play — the Indians are clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest of the district.
For Oneida, Thursday's win was the seventh in a row. The Indians will try to run that number to eight at Anderson County on Friday.
In addition to the two goals each by Gilbert and James, Oneida got goals from Luke Barna, Mason Keeton, Grady Keeton, George Kline and Landon Terry.