There was a point, in the third quarter of Oneida’s game against The King’s Academy on Friday, when the Indians had a 19-14 lead and the ball.
But then things changed in a hurry. Using their explosive playmakers and speed advantage on offense, the Lions reeled off 24 unanswered points to win the game, 42-19.
King’s Academy finished with 417 yards of offense — the most given up by Oneida this season — and quarterbacks Zac Acuff and Garrett Weekly combined for five touchdown passes on 16 of 21 attempts.
The win was the third in a row for Oneida after a 4-0 start, but Indians coach Tony Lambert — who challenged his team after a region loss at Rockwood a week earlier — was not disappointed in the effort.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Lambert said. “They fought hard. They didn’t back down.”
Oneida rolled up 300 yards of offense. Senior tailback Kolby Morgan had 165 yards on 22 carries, and finished with 253 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Noah Buttram went most of the way at quarterback, except for a brief period in the fourth quarter as he nursed a slight ankle injury, and completed 6 of 10 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
The King’s Academy never trailed in the first half, and led Oneida 14-12 at halftime. But things got explosive in the third quarter. Morgan broke free for a 71-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage out of the locker room, then the Indians recovered a Lions fumble on the next play from scrimmage. The fumble was forced by TJ Meredith and recovered by Deshaun Brabson, and suddenly Oneida had the ball at midfield with a 19-14 lead.
But the Indians were unable to capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt. From there, TKA began to turn in one big play after another as fatigue increasingly became an issue.
First, Weekly found Jachim Williams for a 10-yard touchdown through the air, as the Lions reclaimed the lead. Then, after Oneida went 3-and-out, TKA needed just two plays to march 89 yards and score again, when Acuff scored on an 8-yard keeper.
The game was essentially over by the end of the third quarter, after Acuff and Williams hooked up for a 31-yard scoring strike. But the Lions added an insurance score in the fourth quarter, on an 11-yard scoring run by Clytavius Barnes.
“There’s no doubt about it, they’ve got a great football team,” Lambert said. “They have a lot of weapons, and we knew they had a lot of speed. Until we got a little fatigued at the end, they didn’t really line it up and run it at us, (but) they big-played us.”
As a Division II team from Seymour, The King’s Academy is now 7-1 on the season and features a University of Tennessee commitment in 3-star offensive lineman Jmarion Gooch. Despite the imposing force of Gooch at the tackle position, TKA was unable to run the football between the tackles with success. Likewise, the Indians were able to run the football effectively on the ground.
But the big plays by TKA’s talented playmakers proved to be the difference.
“There are no excuses to be made,” Lambert said. “They made the plays. But I still wanna say this: I’m proud of my kids. They played hard.”
For Indians, the tough schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they face a trip to Decatur, Tenn. next to face Meigs County. The Tigers enter the game with an undefeated record, fresh off beating previously unbeaten South Pittsburg, 28-21.
“Our schedule has been tough. There ain’t no doubt about it,” Lambert said. “We’ve had a tough stretch here. We’ve seen a lot of good athletes the last couple of weeks.”
Playing in a small region — Region 2-2A features just five teams — causes the Indians to have to schedule extensively each season, which has led to the toughest schedule in all of Tennessee Class 2A football in each of the past two seasons.
“When you’re in a small league and you’ve had a little bit of success … I can’t help what the geographics are,” Lambert said. “People use geographics for why they don’t want to play. At the end of the day, I’m not one bit ashamed that we have to play quality opponents in non-region games. No offense, but the days when you could put one or two on the schedule just to get a couple in the bag just aren’t there.”