Oneida head coach Tony Lambert was unusually relaxed, laid back and jovial after Friday’s game against Sullivan North.
He had reason to be. A defensive-minded coach, Lambert watched his defense take complete control of the Indians’ first round postseason game against the Raiders, pitching a 35-0 shutout to advance to the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Sullivan North (5-6) didn’t have positive yardage until late in the second quarter, and did not pick up a first down until the third quarter. The Raiders reached the Oneida side of the 50 just once, and took only one snap in plus territory.
Oneida (7-4) limited the Raiders to just 52 yards of offense and three first downs for the game.
“We get to eat shutout pizza on Monday,” Lambert said, referring to his practice of rewarding his team with free pizza the Monday after a shutout win. “I told them the other day I’m sick of eating pizza. During football season you eat so much of it. The only pizza I want is shutout pizza. And we get to eat that Monday.”
When the Indians’ defense wasn’t making life miserable for Sullivan North, their offense was. Oneida rushed for 327 yards, dominated time of possession, and converted four of five fourth downs. Junior running back Kolby Morgan finished with 117 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. As a team, the Indians averaged almost seven yards a carry.
The scoring summary told the story of Oneida’s offensive philosophy, as the Indians scored on touchdown runs of three yards by Buttram, four yards by Morgan, three yards by Barnhart and three yards by Morgan before Morgan scored on a 21-yard run to cap the scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was a grind-it-out approach with few big plays — though senior Colby Boyatt did break off a 53-yard run, one of four plays of 20 or more yards for the Indians.
“We play defense, special teams, don’t beat yourself,” Lambert said. “A lot of people don’t like that style but that’s what we do. I was proud of our kids and the coaching staff. We worked really hard. Coach (Robert) Wright said that Tuesday was our best practice we had al season. To have your guys come out and work like that, and just their mindset, after the debacle we had last week (a 22-14 loss at Coalfield), we just got back to the fundamentals and the basics of what we’re about.”
Oneida scored once in the first quarter and twice in the second quarter to build a 21-0 halftime lead. By that point, it was clear that the outcome would never be in question, as Sullivan North’s body language suggested the Raiders were ready to board the charter bus back to Kingsport.
The Indians had one turnover — an interception in the first half — but otherwise scored on five of seven possessions, punting just once.Buttram scored on a 3-yard run with 5:45 remaining in the first half to start the scoring for Oneida, then Morgan scored on a 4-yard run less than a minute into the second quarter to expand the lead to 14-0. Both of the Indians’ first two drives were nine-yard drives, with one covering 36 yards and one covering 54 yards.
The Indians’ final touchdown of the first half came on a 3-yard run by Barnhart to cap a 6-play, 35-yard drive midway through the second quarter.
Oneida took the opening possession of the second half and marched 66 yards in 11 plays, taking 5:11 off the clock before Morgan found the end zone from three yards out.
Finally, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Morgan scored on a 21-yard run to cap a 6-play, 62-yard drive.
“We did the things we want to do,” Lambert said. “If you beat us, you beat us. But we don’t want to beat ourselves. And I thought we were pretty efficient all the way around tonight.”