GATLINBURG — For a second consecutive season, Oneida ran into a buzzsaw in the Class A state sectionals.
But for a second consecutive season, the Indians were one of the last 16 teams standing in Tennessee, one step away from the state tournament.
Oneida fell 11-2 at Gatlinburg on Saturday afternoon — running into a team that could very well wind up winning the state championship. It marked the end of a remarkable road for the Indians. They may have been expected to advance to the substate last year. This year, it’s likely that no one would have predicted it. And if they had’ve, they certainly would’ve changed their mind after injuries impacted the Indians early.
“The boys finally ran out of gas against the best team by far we have played this year,” Oneida head coach Derek Keeton said after Saturday’s substate game. “GP is a state champion team. I’m very impressed.”
Oneida found its groove late in the season, marching to the District 3-A championship and then making it to the Region 2-A title game, where the Indians came up one goal short of a Sweetwater team that had beaten Cumberland Gap by seven goals just two days earlier.
“This team definitely overachieved this year and I’m very thankful for each young man on the team,” Keeton said. “Coach (Phil) Newport and I have really enjoyed this year.”
Jacob Manis was named the Region 2-A defensive MVP. Joining Manis on the all-region team from Oneida were Drew Dewitt, Zac Hacker and Chase Rushing.
“Anytime individuals get awarded, it is always because of the team’s success,” Keeton said. “I’m very thankful for the accomplishments of these young men and their leadership. I’m excited for Jacob Manis being voted region defensive MVP. He has been a tremendous leader and captain for us back there anchoring our defense.”
While Saturday’s game wasn’t that close, Wednesday’s region title game at Jane Terry Hoffman Field certainly was. The Indians spotted favored Sweetwater a pair of early goals, then settled in, though they ultimately failed 3-2. Zac Hacker scored both goals, including a first half goal and a second half penalty kick.
“We have the heart of a champion,” Keeton said. “It was 3-2 after Drew got in the box and got a penalty and Zac finished the penalty kick. We had many good opportunities to score but just missed. It was an absolute war and our kids brought it.”
Newport, who has coached the Indians’ defense throughout the season, said his players did a nice job defending Sweetwater’s offensive attack.
“With the weapons they had we finally settled in defensively and adjusted,” Newport said. “Giving up two goals in the first five minutes really made it hard to climb back in. Our kids did not let up.”