COALFIELD — With the exception of two plays here Friday, Oneida played what was unquestionably one of its best defensive games of the season in a 14-7 loss to Coalfield.
Those two plays, touchdown passes on fourth-and-long late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter, would haunt the Indians and prove to be the difference on a rainy night that saw both offenses struggle to move the football.
But Oneida otherwise kept Coalfield’s potent offense well in check. The Yellow Jackets began the game by marching the length of the field before being turned back by a Rylin Duncan interception in the end zone. After that, mustering offense was a struggle for the home team, and the game marked just the second time this season that Coalfield (8-2) has been held to fewer than 31 points.
But after moving the football relatively well in the first half, Oneida (7-3) saw its offense go completely by the wayside in the second half. The Indians had no positive yards in the third quarter, did not have a second half first down until midway through the fourth quarter, and suffered several costly penalties.
Coalfield controlled the line of scrimmage, shutting down the Indians’ rushing attack. Forced to go to the air, Oneida dropped pass after pass.
As a result, the Indians weren’t able to put another touchdown on the board, despite playing nearly the entire second half on Coalfield’s side of the field. Oneida’s final drive ended at the 10-yard-line when quarterback Caden Rector was stopped one yard short of a first down on a fourth down scramble.
“We dropped too many passes tonight,” Oneida coach Jimmy May said. “I know the ball was wet but it was just uncharacteristic of us.
“(But) they battled hard,” he added. “I can’t say anything bad about them. We played hard all night, it just didn’t work out for us.”
The game-deciding sequence came late in the first half and early in the second half. The Indians had marched into scoring position in the first half, keeping a drive alive when Rector was hit late on a fourth down play that would’ve seen the ball go over on downs at the 10-yard-line. Duncan plunged into the end zone two plays later, and it appeared the Indians would take a 7-0 lead to the halftime locker room and get the ball to start the second half.
But on fourth down with just seconds remaining, Coalfield quarterback Cole Hines found an open receiver in the back of the end zone, pulling the Yellow Jackets to within a point after the PAT was blocked.
Then, to start the second half, TJ Meredith returned the kickoff to midfield, but a block in the back caused the Indians to start inside their 10-yard-line. Three plays later, a mishandled snap on a punt attempt resulted in a safety that gave Coalfield its first lead of the night.
With a short field after the ensuing kickoff, Coalfield again scored on a fourth and long play, and that’s the way things would stand for the remainder of the night.
“We kept getting the ball at midfield but we couldn’t make a first down,” May said. “They made two big plays and that’s kinda what won the game.”
Oneida limited Coalfield to 225 yards of offense, but managed just 152 of its own. Penalties were again an Achilles heel for the Indians; they had 8 for 70 yards.
“We have to start moving the ball better on offense,” May said. “If you hold them to 14 points, that’s good enough to win. We have to start doing our part on the other side of the ball.”
With the loss, Oneida finished second in Region 2-2A and will host Cumberland Gap in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers will enter with a 4-6 record, but May — whose squad scrimmaged Gap in fall camp — said they are a much-improved football team.
“It’s week by week now,” May said. “If you don’t win, it’s over. You don’t get second chances in football. If you don’t show up to play, that’s it.”