SEYMOUR, Tenn. — At the end of the day, East Tennessee’s top pass-rusher did what he does best.
Oneida defensive end Colby Boyatt, who leads East Tennessee in sacks, broke free off the edge to blow up a pass attempt by King’s Academy quarterback Nathan Hoffman, the QB’s desperation heave fell harmlessly to the turf, and the Indians escaped with a 28-21 win over the Lions.
It was an improbable comeback win for Oneida, which rebounded from a 21-13 deficit late in the fourth quarter to force overtime for a second time this season.
Oneida (6-2) led 13-7 at halftime, but King’s Academy (4-4) was able to exploit the Indians twice with deep passes in the third quarter, and was on the verge of putting the game out of reach after forcing the Indians’ to punt midway through the fourth quarter.
But Oneida’s defense held King’s Academy without a first down on three consecutive possessions to end the game, including a critical series following that fourth quarter punt. The Indians then drove the length of the field for a Bryson Buttram touchdown, and quarterback Elijah West found tight end Hunter Barnhart in the end zone for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
In overtime, Oneida scored on a run by Kolby Morgan, which would prove to be the game-winner.
“Hats off to our kids,” Indians head coach Tony Lambert said. “They played so hard. They faced so much adversity.”
Lambert said his team “keeps losing defensive backs,” pointing out that senior cornerback Aaron Bowling has already been lost for the season after blowing out his knee against Upperman. Senior safety Jakob Hamilton left the game with an ankle injury at King’s Academy and did not return.
“Guys are just having to play and King’s Academy has some great people on the perimeter,” Lambert said. “You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out. But the resiliency of these kids is fantastic.”
Oneida was able to execute its game plan offensively, rolling up 274 rushing yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Morgan finished with 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 22 carries, while Buttram added 96 yards and a score on 19 carries.
The Indians were able to exploit King’s Academy’s penchant for not playing a free safety in the first quarter, when Morgan broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run.
“Kolby’s a guy, when he gets in the second level, he’s very dangerous,” Lambert said. “He has excellent speed and good vision. Our offensive line did a fantastic job creating opportunities for him.”
The 7-0 lead didn’t last long. King’s Academy scored on a 56-yard run of its own to start the second quarter, when Jachim Williams broke free.
Oneida regained the lead in the second quarter, when West hit Morgan on a swing pass on third-and-goal. Morgan eluded a tackler to get to the end zone, and that’s the way the score stood until halftime.
Things began to change quickly in the third quarter. First, Garrett Weekly found Nakelin McAfee for a 33-yard touchdown strike, and King’s Academy took its first lead of the game.
Later, Weekly completed a 61-yard pass to Williams, pushing the lead to 21-13.
The Lions had an opportunity to put the game away when Oneida was forced to punt early in the fourth quarter. But the Indians’ defense held, and Oneida’s offense got another opportunity. The Indians marched 71 yards in 11 plays before Buttram’s two-yard run made it close. West-to-Barnhart completed the comeback, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Oneida got the ball first and turned to Morgan on second down, who broke free for an 8-yard touchdown run, which was the game-winner after Oneida held King’s Academy on the Lions’ overtime possession.
“Our guys told us from the press box when Coach (Jimmy) May called the play before it was even snapped, they said, ‘It’s there,’” Lambert said of Morgan’s touchdown in overtime. “Kolby did a great job on the cutback.
“It was a physical football game, I’ll tell you,” Lambert added. “King’s Academy had some specimens. But our kids never back down from anybody. I’m proud of them.”