The Indians struggled to get going in the first half, but they managed to mount one of the best comebacks in recent history as they turned the game around in the second half and overcame a 14-0 deficit to pull off a 23-20 win double-overtime over the visiting Gatlinburg-Pittman.
“We needed to bring our physicality up because they were bringing it and we weren’t,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said. “Coach (Jimmy) May and Coach (Billy) Barnhart and those offensive guys did a good job making the changes we felt like we needed to make. We challenged them, if you want to dance, let’s go out there and dance. Let’s make it a fist-fight in a phone booth.
Gatlinburg-Pittman scored on two long strikes in the first half as Collin Garza scored on a 77-yard carry in the first quarter. Their second score came on an 81-pass from JD Shults to Andrew Gentry in the second quarter for the 14-0 lead.
Oneida’s Johnny Manis recovered a Highlander fumble that was forced by Toby Hacker during a punt return and Evan Roberts made the visitors pay as he found paydirt on the next play to close the gap at 14-7. Roberts led Oneida with 154 yards on 15 carries.
Oneida had a couple more chances to score, but couldn’t punch it in during the third quarter. Then Manis capped off a long scoring drive with a five-yard touchdown run to tie the game with five minutes left to play.
Oneida’s defense stood strong and got the ball back. After several big gains, the Indians had a chance to win in regulation, but a bad snap ruined Rhemci Chitwood’s field goal attempt and the game was sent into overtime.
After both teams connected on field goals (Oneida’s from 24-yards out) to force a second overtime, the Highlanders took a 20-17 advantage with a 40-yard field goal.
“Rhemci had a chance to reddem himself and he made that kick,” Lambert said. “We should’ve won the game in regulation, but we had a bad snap. We’ve got a veteran snapper and he just snapped it low, but he’ll get better from it.”
Roberts capped off his impressive night with a seven-yard touchdown run on second down to give his Indians the win.
Lambert talked about being able to finish games.
“We don’t want to get beat in the fourth quarter. We want the fourth quarter to be ours and if we get to overtime, we want to own it,” Lambert said. “I’m just thankful for the effort we got tonight.”