MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — With 3:10 remaining in the third quarter of Oneida’s game at Sequoyah on Friday, it appeared that there might be — as the sports pundits often say — an “upset brewing.”
Sequoyah, which hadn’t won a game since September 2018, had just converted fourth down with a nine-yard touchdown pass to cut its deficit to 15-7, and Oneida was struggling to hold onto the football, with four turnovers on the night.
But on the very next play from scrimmage, TJ Meredith broke things open in much the same way as he did in an upset win over Monterey the previous week.
Meredith scored on an 80-yard touchdown run, three yards longer than the key second half run that he had against Monterey. Oneida play-by-play broadcaster Tim Smith would later say that the touchdown run had a deflating effect on Sequoyah. And it showed, as the Indians dominated the final 15 minutes of the game, winning 35-7.
The game might have been a non-region game, but it was nevertheless an important one for Oneida. The Indians secured a first-round home playoff game with the win, which improved them to 7-2 on the season.
As for Meredith, he finished with a career-high 134 yards on eight carries to lead an Oneida rushing attack that averaged a whopping 9.7 yards per carry.
But even though Oneida outscored Sequoyah 20-0 in the final 15 minutes of the game, it didn’t always look like it was going to be as easy as the final score indicated. The Indians finished with five turnovers and repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.
“Our problem is turnovers are killing us,” Oneida coach Jimmy May said. “It’s a wet night, and we just didn’t put the ball away. We probably could’ve had three more scores. We fumbled a couple of times inside the 20.
“We’re just not taking care of the ball,” May added. “We work on ball security every day and it baffles me just what’s going on. Nothing’s easy with us, it seems. (But) we keep fighting and good things have happened for us.”
Oneida’s defense continued to impress, limiting Sequoyah to 42 rushing yards on 26 attempts. The Chiefs were able to complete 18 of 31 passes for 144 yards, but were forced into three turnovers and also had a safety.
Oneida started the game effectively enough. After forcing Sequoyah into a 3-and-out, the Indians marched the length of the field to score on a two-yard run by Rylin Duncan.
But things began to bog down after that. Oneida scored on another two-yard run by Duncan early in the second quarter, but the score stood at 13-0 at halftime as the turnovers mounted.
The Indians turned the ball over yet again to start the second half, but Sequoyah found itself stuck in reverse. On 3rd and 34, the Chiefs were called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which gave Oneida a 15-0 lead.
Oneida wasn’t able to capitalize on the situation, though, and Sequoyah got the ball back and wound up scoring on a nine-yard pass from Cooper Self to Emmett Duff with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter, making the score 15-7.
The very next play was Meredith’s 80-yard touchdown run, which completely flipped the momentum.
Later, Jayden Anderson scored on a seven-yard run to make it 29-7.
Finally, Caden Rector and Hunter Shoemaker hooked up on a screen pass for a 37-yard touchdown, setting the final score at 35-7.
The Chiefs made a push late in the game, but Colten Daugherty intercepted a pass on the goal line and returned it to near midfield with two minutes remaining, ending the scoring threat.
The win improved Oneida to 7-2 on the season heading into next week’s game at Coalfield, which will be for the No. 1 playoff seed in Region 2-2A.
“At the beginning of the season, the way we started off against Williamsburg, I don’t know if anybody thought we were gonna get to 7-2,” May said. “They practice hard and I stay after them. They respond and they keep coming back to practice. They’re good kids and they work hard. I’m glad to have had success and we just have to keep it going.”