Kolby Morgan rushed for 283 yards and three touchdowns, and Oneida snapped a five-game losing streak against Greenback with a 21-7 win over the Cherokees at Jim May Stadium on Friday.
After a scoreless first half that was at times sloppy — Greenback had a wealth of penalties and Oneida had three turnovers — the Indians took charge in the second half, and they did it with the running ability of Morgan.
The senior running back scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to get the Indians on the board, then added a 61-yard touchdown late. And, to put the icing on the cake, he scored on a 32-yard run on fourth down with less than a minute remaining to prevent Greenback from getting a last-gasp effort with the football.
When Morgan wasn’t frustrating Greenback, the Indians’ defense was. The Cherokees finished with 219 yards of offense, but Oneida disrupted the flow of Greenback’s offensive attack, particularly in the front seven. The Cherokees were often guilty of holding in an effort to slow down Oneida’s defenders. For the night, Greenback had 12 penalties for 113 yards.
Jacob Warmoth led the defensive effort, with nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Joel Couch finished with seven tackles. Deshaun Brabson had six tackles and a fumble recovery.
“I thought we played really well on defense just to be honest with you,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said.
With the game seemingly sewed up in the final five minutes, Oneida let Greenback get on the board late. The Cherokees scored on a 14-yard run with 2:00 remaining to cut the lead to 14-7.
Lambert was not happy with the late touchdown given up, especially after Wartburg was able to score late in the game a week earlier.
“They made some plays in the second half,” he said. “It was kinda frustrating to give up a score down there. We’ve got in that lull in the second half two weeks in a row. You can’t do that. You gotta close the door.
“But I’m not gonna fuss too hard,” he added. “The kids played hard tonight.”
Oneida’s seniors said before the game that they wanted a win over the Cherokees, who have been in the Class A state championship game four of the last five seasons.
“I can’t say enough about my kids,” Lambert said. “And my coaching staff, how hard we worked this week. We worked on our conditioning and I thought we were in a little better shape this week than we were in the other two. I thought our kids held up better. I thought we chased the football better. It was a good night for Oneida football.”
Oneida punched the ball into the red zone one time in the first half, but Kolby Morgan was shaken up after reaching the nine-yard-line and had to sit out two plays. The end result was a stalled drive and a missed field goal, the first time either team threatened to score.
Three turnovers by the Indians helped Greenback’s defense in the first half. In the second half, Oneida finally began to move the football consistently after moving Morgan into the wildcat, which the Indians refer to as their 22 offense — the number on Morgan’s back.
“I thought maybe we were trying to counter them too much,” Lambert said. “Coach (Jimmy) May started going right at them and popping some seams. We thought we might do better if we went right at them. I thought the 22 was a big advantage for us.”
Later, Oneida added another score with Morgan in the wildcat.
Once the Indians went ahead 14-0, their defense was able to pin back its ears, constantly putting pressure on Greenback’s freshman quarterback, Brennen Duggan. Lambert was complimentary of his defensive front.
“I thought our defensive line gave pressure tonight when we didn’t have to bring pressure,” Lambert said. “Our guys just rallied to the ball. And the second level, those linebackers, I thought they did a really good job. That defensive line, I could go on and on about them. I thought they made the difference in the ballgame tonight.
“I’m really proud of our coaching staff,” he added. “I thought we had a good plan. Getting to beat Greenback is something.”