WARTBURG — In its first two games of the season, Oneida started slow before cranking up its offense in the second half. But that was not the case in Friday’s Region 2-2A opener, as the Indians scored four first half touchdowns to build a 28-0 lead and spoil the Bulldogs’ hopes of springing a major upset.
Oneida (3-0, 1-0) used another big night by junior running back Kolby Morgan to set the tone. Morgan scored all five of the Indians’ offensive touchdowns on the night, including four on just six touches in the first half. He scored on a 79-yard run to get the scoring started, and had 166 rushing yards on only five carries by the half.
“I said in my preseason interviews, he is electrifying with the ball in his hand, and I think you understand what I’m saying,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said. “He’s one cut and on the gas, now. He has great vision, and that’s what I like about him.”
The Indians’ defense, meanwhile, was its usual self, shutting the Bulldogs out until late in the fourth quarter. Wartburg (1-2, 0-1) put up 175 yards — more than York Institute or Oliver Springs — and scored against Oneida’s younger defense on the last possession of the game, but the outcome was never in doubt.
“I knew we had a pretty good grasp of how hard our team would play, but tonight I thought we brought a little bit of intensity,” Lambert said. “We were striking people.”
The game changed early. Wartburg quarterback Tyler Davis left the game with an injured ankle on the Bulldogs’ second offensive possession, which seemed to take the air out of the Bulldogs’ sideline. The junior did not return to the game.
“It was a tough night here for Wartburg, losing their quarterback so early in the game,” Lambert said. “I knew he was a fantastic player and, man, I hope he’s okay. I think he’s going to be a fantastic football player from what I’ve seen. I’m very impressed.”
Backup quarterback Jeremiah Davis completed 12 of 21 passes for 78 yards.
While Morgan finished with 194 rushing yards on eight attempts, averaging more than 24 yards per carry, the Indians actually had two 100-yard rushers. Senior Bryson Buttram finished with 106 yards on 12 carries.
Senior quarterback Elijah West made his return for Oneida, trading snaps with Jakob Hamilton, who has started the first three games of the season while West recovers from an ACL injury he suffered in the spring. West completed two of four passes, including a 39-yard touchdown to Morgan late in the first half.
The Indians got the scoring started midway through the first quarter, when Morgan broke free for a 71-yard run.
Oneida then scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 4-yard run by Morgan on the first play of the quarter. Minutes later, Morgan broke free for a 56-yard run, putting the Indians up 21-0.
The back-breaker came towards the end of the first half. Wartburg opted to punt, and Chris Flowers backed the Indians up with a kick that rolled out of bounds at the 2-yard-line. With just two minutes remaining until halftime, the Indians appeared content to run out the clock and get to the locker room with a three-touchdown lead. But plans changed when Buttram broke off a 40-yard run, breaking multiple tackles, to push the ball into Wartburg territory. Two plays later, West and Morgan hooked up for a 39-yard score.
The Indians resumed the scoring in the second half, when Morgan scored on a 14-yard run late in the third quarter to key a running clock.
Just plays later, Oneida linebacker Jacob Warmoth intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown, expanding the lead. Aaron Bowling also had an interception for the Indians.
Wartburg’s touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Ethan Stedam with four minutes remaining.
Oneida finished with 399 yards of offense, only four penalties, and no turnovers.
The win moved the Indians one win away from clinching a playoff berth in their 5-team region.
“Being 3-0, being 1-0 in the region, that’s a big start for us,” Lambert said.
However, the Indians’ head coach knows there is no time for his team to rest on its early successes. Oneida will travel to Greenback this week to face one of the state’s top teams in Class 1A.
“I told our guys, look, we’re the underdog,” Lambert said. “So we’re gonna roll up in there 3-0 and try to believe in ourselves. We are who we are, we’re going to play the way we do, and we’ll tee it up and see how we do.”