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By GOOSE LINDSAY
Oneida’s Dr. M.E. Thompson field is one of the toughest venues in East Tennessee for visiting teams to play.
Rockwood found out just how tough Friday night as the Tigers suffered a season-opening 28-14 loss at the hands of the Indians.
“I thought we played pretty hard, but our execution was terrible at times,” Tiger head coach John Webb said following the loss. “When we had a chance to make plays we didn’t. We’ve got to do a much better job executing.”
This year’s game between the Tigers and Indians was much different that last year’s 7-6 defensive slugfest won by the Tigers. In this year’s game, the two teams combined for 42 points in the first half alone before the defenses settled down in the second half.
Friday’s game started out looking like it would be low scoring as neither team could pick up a first down as they combined for minus six yards on their first possession.
Oneida, however, struck quickly on their second possession as Braxton Hutson took a jet sweep and raced 56 yards to the Tiger one. Jonathan Lewallen scored two plays later to give the Indians a 7-0 lead with 6:36 to play in the opening quarter.
After a Tiger three-and-out and a short punt, Oneida marched 44 yards in eight plays to make it 14-0 with 39.8 seconds left in the first quarter. Houston Hood capped Oneida’s drive with a one yard run.
Rockwood, however, didn’t succumb to the pressure as the Tigers got back into the contest with an 11-play, 66-yard drive that ended in an 11-yard scoring pass from Tyler Parsons to Matt Roberts. Garrett Raby added the PAT to pull Rockwood within 14-7 with 7:26 left in the first half.
A 30-yard pass from Parsons to Raby helped set up the score.
Oneida answered quickly as the jet sweep that worked earlier in the contest bit Rockwood again. This time Sam Woodard capped a three-play, 71-yard drive with a 55-yard run to make the score 21-7 with 5:57 left in the second quarter.
“We worked on that play all week and knew it was coming,” Webb said. “We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”
Oneida then threatened to make it a rout as Indian LB Holden Sexton picked off a pass and returned it 59 yards for a score to give the Indians a 28-7 lead with 2:50 left in the half.
“It’s hard for us to come from behind,” Webb said. “We’re not a quick strike team. We’re a ball control team so falling behind by three scores was tough.”
Rockwood got one of the scores back before halftime as a 56-yard kickoff return from Raby along with a face mask penalty on the Indians gave the Tigers the ball on the Oneida 20. Rockwood scored four plays later on a seven-yard run from Ronnie Dyer to make the score 28-14 at halftime.
The second half opened with Rockwood putting together a solid drive as the Tigers marched 47 yards in eight plays and had the ball at the Indian 26 before the Oneida defense stiffened and took over on downs.
From there, Oneida’s defense and ground game on offense kept the Tiger at bay.
Rockwood picked up just one more first down on the night while the Indians didn’t have to put the ball in the air all night.
Oneida did drive the ball all the to the Tiger one midway through the final period, but Rockwood’s Dyer stripped an Indian ball carrier and returned the ball 11 yards to the 12. Dyer appeared headed for a huge return, possibly a touchdown, but he never quite got his balance as he stumbled and fell to the turf.
Oneida ended the evening with 273 yards on 44 carries. Hutson led the way with 88 yards on seven carries while Woodard added 73 yards on four attempts.
Oneida did not attempt a pass.
Rockwood had 175 yards of total offense (126 rushing, 49 passing) on 50 snaps. Josh Brock led Rockwood with 46 yards rushing on seven carries while Jeff Inman had 44 yards on nine attempts.
Rockwood (0-1) faces Midway (1-0) Friday night at Rockwood.
“We’re going to be a better football team Friday night,” Webb vowed. “We’re going to practice hard and correct our mistakes.”
Rushing- Brock 7-46, Inman 9-44, Morgan 1-4, Dyer 7-30 with 1 TD, Dierdorff 6-7, Parsons 2-(-5).
Passing- Parsons 4-17 for 49 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs., Brock 0-1.
Receiving- Brock 2-8, Raby 1-30, Roberts 1-11 with 1 TD.