Phil Newport did not mince words after Saturday’s Class A sectional game at Jane Terry Hoffman Field.
Speaking minutes after Oneida’s 2-0 loss to Alcoa in the sectional game, the Lady Indians’ head coach said simply, “I am really irate at the play of Alcoa.”
Newport, typically complimentary of his opponents’ efforts after the game, initially left it at that. However, when asked by the Independent Herald to expand on that take, he held nothing back.
“This team deserved a better shake today,” Newport said. “I thought the head official encouraged the play by not penalizing the tactics that Alcoa employed.”
Newport was penalized at one point in the second half, after an Alcoa player was carded for punching Oneida’s Caroline Keeton, when he told the Tornadoes’ coach that the team was playing dirty. The official chose to issue a yellow card to Newport for the remark, but he did not apologize.
“I got carded for telling the coach they were playing dirty and in my eyes they were,” he said.
The Tornadoes jumped to a 1-0 halftime lead after sticking the ball in the back of the net late in the first 40-minute stanza. Even that goal was scored in controversy, however. Oneida goalkeeper Alea Jones was pushed into the goal, and Keeton and the partisan Lady Indian crowd at Hoffman Field felt it should have been an interference penalty.
Neither team scored the rest of the way, until Alcoa added a goal in the final minute with Oneida playing its entire field up in a desperation attempt to score a late goal to tie the game. It marked the first time the Lady Indians had been shut out since a 1-0 loss to Anderson County on September 17, which was also the last game they had lost. Saturday’s loss to Alcoa snapped an 8-game winning streak, and a 10-game unbeaten streak overall, for Oneida.
The game was mired in controversy throughout. Two of Oneida’s forwards — Keeton and Aliyah Douglas — ended the game with their ankles on ice, from what Newport described as defenders clipping them from behind repeatedly.
“I am sure the best way to make a speedy player slower is by punching the tires,” he said. “Their sideline kept hollering at their fullbacks to ‘play through them.’”
There was a head-butt on a defenseless player that was not penalized, and despite a yellow card being awarded to an Alcoa player for the hit on Keeton, Alcoa was awarded the kick.
“I feel proud of my kids,” Newport said. “They played as cleanly all season as I have asked them to.”
While Newport joked that he “didn’t lose gracefully,” he isn’t the first coach to accuse Alcoa of questionable tactics. In September 2016, Scott High coach Eric Henry forfeited a district game against the Tornadoes, telling his team to leave the field at halftime. At the time, Henry said he was doing it to protect his players from the same tactics that drew the ire of Oneida players and coaches on Saturday. The TSSAA initially responded by suspending Scott High’s season, but later overturned that decision on appeal.
Alcoa’s win in Saturday’s game lifted the Torandoes to their third consecutive state tournament appearance.
Many thought that a win by Oneida in the region championship game would provide a relatively clear pathway to the state tournament. However, the Tornadoes were upset that same night by Cosby, a stunning outcome that sent Alcoa to Jane Terry Hoffman Field for the sectional game.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are headed to the state tournament themselves. After beating Alcoa, 3-2, in the Region 1-A championship game after losing 5-0 to the Tornadoes just a week earlier, Cosby pulled off another stunner in Saturday’s sectional, defeating Cumberland Gap 5-0. The Panthers had defeated the Eagles 4-1 in the season opener back in August.