Oneida’s first touchdown on the night came from Kolby Morgan, and it didn’t take him long to score it.
Morgan broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run on the Indians’ second play from scrimmage, sparking a 39-0 rout of Cumberland Gap in Friday’s Region 2-2A game at Jim May Stadium.
The fact that it was Morgan who scored the Indians’ first touchdown was hardly surprising; he would score two more before the night was done. But, on this night, and in this emotional week, it was especially fitting, Oneida head coach Tony Lambert said.
The week started with Morgan’s younger brother, Isaac, being involved in a serious car crash. Seventy-two hours earlier, the younger Morgan had played well against Greenback. “He was starting to get a lot of time,” Lambert said Friday. But Monday night saw him airlifted to University of Tennessee Medical Center, where football was the furtherest thing from doctors’ minds as they tended to his non-life-threatening but very serious injuries.
“Listen, as a head coach, you don’t know, are the wheels going to come off?” Lambert said of the emotional week.
By the time Kolby Morgan raced down the left sideline to the end zone on the Indians’ second play, it looked like the wheels were still snug on the axles. And, if there was any doubt remaining, it wouldn’t last long. Oneida had 215 yards of offense to Cumberland Gap’s seven in the first quarter. It was the Indians’ most dominating performance against the Panthers in the series’ 10 meetings, which date back to 2007.
“These kids have been wounded,” Lambert said. “That’s their brother. But they’ve been so resilient in coming to practice.
“I think a lot of it was they got to see Isaac being upbeat and the way he’s handled it,” Lambert added. “I’ve been extremely proud of the way our kids have handled it. It says a lot about who they are. It says a lot about this community. I’ve seen an outpouring of love. We’re in a special place.”
As for Kolby Morgan, he had another Mr. Football-worthy night, finishing with 112 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers might not have been as eye-popping as the ones he put up the past two weeks, but he did it in just one quarter, on only seven carries. He averaged 16 yards per carry.
Isaac Morgan, still hospitalized, having undergone two surgeries already and facing more in the near future, was able to watch his brother and his team from UTMC, via Facebook Live.
“They said every time we scored they got on to him for getting too loud,” Lambert said. “They had to calm him down.”
It wasn’t just Kolby Morgan playing for his brother. The entire team rallied. Lambert said the sophomore has a magnetic personality.
“I told him they should’ve named him Electricity,” Lambert said. “When he walks in the room, everything’s going to change. Now, I’m not telling you it’s always going to change in a good way, or in a bad way. But I guarantee you when he walks into the room, the lights are coming on. He’s done such a tremendous job of growing up this summer and this fall.”
And with his nurses having to calm Morgan down after Oneida’s big plays, they had their work cut out for them. The big plays happened in rapid succession throughout the first half.
There was an 18-yard run by Kolby Morgan, his second of the night, on the Indians’ second possession. There was a 40-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Jacob Warmoth. There was another touchdown by Morgan. There was freshman TJ Meredith getting his first career touchdown on a plunge to pay dirt from a yard out. There was a fumble recovery by Elijah Phillips to end Cumberland Gap’s only promising drive of the game. There was an interception by DeShaun Brabson. There was Noah Buttram, who transferred from Scott High during the offseason, getting his first action after being declared eligible by TSSAA and finishing with 69 rushing yards in limited action, including a 37-yard run that was accentuated by the bone-jarring shoulder blow he delivered to a Cumberland Gap defensive back, to the delight of the Indian faithful.
And all of that was in the first half. By the time senior cheerleader Drew Dixon had been crowned homecoming queen and Brabson returned the second half kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown, the only thing left in doubt was how many of the Indians’ freshmen and sophomores would get to play before the night was done.
Brabson’s kick return, as it turned out, costed Lambert pizza. The Indians’ younger players managing to preserve the shutout will cost him more. Oneida had twice already been close to shutouts before giving up fourth quarter touchdowns against Wartburg and Greenback.
“We talk about eating pizza for shutouts. We got a shutout; we’ll eat pizza,” Lambert said. “But I told them this week if we score a touchdown on special teams — not a field goal or an extra point, but a touchdown — we’ll get some more pizza. So we’re two in the hole on that. We get to eat pizza two days. I asked them if we could bank one of them for later in the season and they agreed to that.”
In spite of the win, Lambert pointed out that the road gets much quicker in a hurry, beginning with a trip to Class 3A regional favorite Upperman next week and a visit from Division II power The King’s Academy before the most important games of the season on the road against Rockwood and Meigs County.
“From here on our we’re gonna have to buckle it up,” he said. “We’ve gotta fix what we’ve gotta fix.”