His coach, Tony Lambert, calls him “Bam Bam.” We call him the Citizens First Bank Player of the Week.
Oneida sophomore Jake Lawson had a big game at Wartburg, with two touchdowns — breaking multiple tackles on each run — and an interception.
Throw Scott High’s JoBen Terry — the other CFB Player of the Week — into the mix, and this week marks the first time ever that two sophomores have won the CFB honor.
That isn’t to diminish the contributions of the seniors, who were big in last week’s wins over Wartburg and Kingston. Oneida senior quarterback Jacob Lambert threw his first touchdown pass; Scott senior Kaleb Byrge notched over 150 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns; Oneida senior Jacob Adams had a 93-yard touchdown run.
But in the district-opening wins for both the Indians and the Highlanders, the contributions of the underclassmen also showed that there is plenty to look forward to beyond 2014.
Lawson burst onto the scene at Oneida a year ago as a freshman. When Oneida’s all-district-caliber linebacking corps was depleted by injuries, Lawson stepped in and picked up the slack. This year, Dalton Chambers (junior) and Matt Williams (senior) are back and healthy, but Lawson is still playing a heavy role alongside them.
“Jake is a tenacious competitor,” Lambert said. “He takes charge and just pinballs people. He’s tremendously strong, and I think he’s going to have a bright future at Oneida.”
Terry, meanwhile, is a newcomer . . . not just to the Highlander squad, but to the game of football. Before the season started, Scott coach Keith Shannon joked that he needed help strapping on his shoulder pads on the first day of spring practice.
It speaks to Terry’s enormous talent that he was able to work his way into the starting rotation at wide receiver — Scott’s deepest and most talented position — from day one despite having never played before. And a dominating win over Kingston — for all intent and purpose, one of the biggest wins in school history — isn’t a bad place to have your coming-out party. Terry finished the game with two rushing touchdowns and caught three of Byrge’s four pass completions.
Building a rivalry: Scott’s Shannon knows that a rivalry — a true rivalry — takes two competitive teams.
“(Kingston) is the big game here at Scott High. And it’s been one-sided, with Kingston getting the better part of it,” the Scott High head coach said Saturday afternoon. “To have a rivalry, it’s got to be give-and-take.”
As districts and regions have changed over the better part of the past four decades, Kingston has been a constant opponent for Scott High. And, during that time, the Highlanders have done too much giving and not enough taking.
“Our kids have always viewed it as a rivalry, and I’m not sure Kingston has up until this point,” Shannon said.
Over the years, Kingston has been a thorn in Scott’s side, even when Scott could have won — should have won, even. A crucial missed extra point here, an inexplicable fumble there, turned what sometimes seemed like sure SHS victories into defeat at the hands of the Yellow Jackets. Scott defeated Kingston by a touchdown in their 1984 district championship season, then only defeated the Yellow Jackets twice more until last year. And, last year, Kingston made the trip to Huntsville and almost repeated the tired old story of finding a way to beat a Scott team that had the upper hand on paper.
On Friday, everything changed. Those who remembered Scott-Kingston games from years past could just imagine the ‘Jackets scoring a late touchdown and Scott’s missed extra point in the first half coming back to haunt the Highlanders. And then Scott simply took over.
When Scott, led by its seniors who will be the first class to end their careers without having a losing record against Kingston, took control late in the second half, Kingston didn’t stand a chance.
And if it wasn’t a rivalry before, Scott-Kingston might have become a true rivalry Friday in Roane County.
“We were realizing at a very early stage that this is one of those games we have to get to have a great season,” Shannon said. “When we were having rough days, even in November and December, even in February, even in June, Kingston is what we talked about.”
Whether 2014 will be a great season for the Highlanders is a chapter that is yet to be written. But thanks to Friday’s dominating showing, it is a chapter that remains very much a possibility, as the Highlanders seek their best back-to-back seasons since the late 1970s.
“Kingston has great success, a great program, and a great history,” Shannon said. “It speaks for itself whenever you’re wanting to get a win against a program of that caliber. To be able to do it was awesome.”
Head-hunting: Just call Tony Lambert the orange-and-white version of Donald Trump.
The Oneida head coach is hunting heads. He said as much after Friday’s win over Wartburg.
“I’m firing people on special teams,” Lambert said. “If it’s not important to you, I’m gonna fire you. We have too many penalties, too many breakdowns.”
Lambert prides himself on strong special teams play; his teams open practice with special teams drills. Before the season started, Lambert highlighted the fact that special teams comprise a third of what takes place on the field on any given Friday night.
“We try to do as good a job as we can from that area,” Lambert said. “It’s always been a strength of ours. But this year it’s been a hindrance at times. We’ve shown flickers at times. But we’re still having too many breakdowns.”
Points at a premium: Both Scott and Oneida have started the season with strong defensive play. After pitching shutouts against McCreary Central and Cumberland County, Scott gave up its first points of the season at Kingston on Friday, but Shannon said that defense set the tone for the big win over the ‘Jackets by refusing to let them into the end zone after an early turnover. Oneida, meanwhile, limited two strong Class 2A teams — Rockwood and Hampton — to a total of just three touchdowns, and has given up only 22 points this season.
The seven points given up by Scott through the first three games of the season ranks third among all 299 Tennessee high school teams — East Nashville has given up no points, and Sevier County has given up six points. Fulton comes in fourth, with nine points given up through the first three games of the season.
The 22 points given up by Oneida, meanwhile, ranks third among Class A teams that have played three games. Only Nashville Christian (17) and Cloudland (21) have given up fewer points through three games. Midway (13), Jo Byrns (14) and Fayetteville (21) have also given up fewer points, but each of those teams have played only two games.
Oneida’s defense fairs well among all classifications, in fact. Among all Tennessee high school teams who have played three games, here’s the point total through last Friday’s action:
1.) East Nashville (AA) – 0
2.) Sevier County (AAA) – 6
3.) Scott High (AA) – 7
4.) Fulton (AA) – 9
5.) Chattanooga Central (AA) – 13
5.) Hendersonville (AAA) – 13
7.) Livingston Academy (AA) – 14
8.) Ripley (AA) – 15
9.) Nashville Christian (A) – 17
10.) Signal Mountain (AA) – 19
11.) Pearl Cohn (AAA) – 20
11.) Munford (AAA) – 20
11.) Smyrna (AAA) – 20
11.) Memphis East (AAA) – 20
15.) Cloudland (A) – 21
15.) Morristown West (AAA) – 21
17.) Oneida (A) – 22
18.) Cleveland (AAA) – 23
18.) Millington (AAA) – 23
20.) Middle TN Christian (A) – 26
Injuries: Oneida’s Nate Bowling (ribs) left Friday’s game against Wartburg and did not return. Indians coach Tony Lambert said he would be evaluated . . . Scott quarterback Billy Hall (knee) is expected to return in another week . . . linebacker Trey Sellers (ankle) played a third of the game at Kingston and continues to battle towards 100 percent, Shannon said, crediting Dr. Scott Gilbert and South Fork Physical Therapy.
An abbreviated version of this column appears on page B3 of this week’s print edition.