UTICA, NY– Going into Saturday’s game against defending Class C champion Notre Dame, Oneida head coach Jason Fuller had a simple plan for practice.
“We went back to fundamentals,” Fuller said. “We started to get a blue collar, lunch pail mentality…It was time to go to work.”
That was definitely the case at Brother McCarthy Field in Utica on Saturday, because the Indians had to work for every point.
Behind the bruising running of senior Kaleb Albro, Oneida was able to drive out of Utica with the 20-7 victory. With the win, the Indians keep pace in the logjam that is the Class B East, where four teams (Central Valley, Mexico and Cazenovia are the others) stand with identical 3-1 records.
It seemed like that lunch-pail mentality would be needed right away, as both defenses started the game by forcing the other’s offense to turn over the ball on downs. After a Juggler punt late in the first, the Indians’ offense went right to work. Using every aspect of their offense, including three different rushers touching the ball, Oneida was able to use the relatively short field to put together a ten-play drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown by Albro to put the Indians up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
For the rest of the quarter, it was a battle from one end of the field to the other, with neither side seeming to gain an advantage. However, that didn’t stop Notre Dame from trying to give the game to the Indians. Their last three drives of the half ended with a lost fumble, a punt and an interception. Luckily for the Jugglers, those three turnovers would only result in seven points for the visiting Indians. Near the end of the quarter, after the Jugglers punted, Oneida would use Albro and senior Macaulee Van Dyke to get near the end zone before Albro would pound it in from one yard out.
For Notre Dame head coach Jake DerCola, that series of events, including some huge penalties for the Jugglers is what ended their hopes for a victory.
“We just didn’t play our game,” DerCola said. “We had a couple of big penalties, but you have to battle through that. We didn’t do that today.”
The penalites would hurt the Jugglers in more ways than one. Early on in the third quarter, Notre Dame star quarterback Jaylen Warmack was ejected for accumulating two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That meant DerCola had to rely on senior backup Jack O’Shaughnessy the rest of the way, down 14-0. O’Shaughnessy will be called upon to lead the Jugglers again next week, as an ejection means Warmack has to sit out Notre Dame’s homecoming game next week against Camden.
“Losing your starting quarterback hurts,” DerCola said. “He has to remember that the second guy doing something wrong always gets caught.”
O’Shaughnessy showed some flashes of brilliance, however, when he finally got his chance to lead the Jugglers. After a scoreless third quarter that showed more of the same battles in the trenches, O’Shaughnessy managed to find some good luck after one of his passes hit his receiver in the head. However, sophomore Zach Brush was able to secure the deflection, and 46 yards later, the Jugglers only found themselves down 14-7.
Unfortunately, nothing else would come that easy for the Jugglers for the rest of the game. O’Shaughnessy would find himself staring down the face of an Oneida defender on almost every play thereafter. After the Indians missed a field goal that would have put the game away, the Jugglers would try to take advantage of an illegal substitution call, but O’Shaughnessy immediately fumbled the ball, giving the Indians an incredibly short field.
Oneida would take advantage, as Albro would only need one play to score from 20 yards out to finally put the game away.
For DerCola, while O’Shaughnessy did keep the Jugglers in the game for a little while, that interception was an indicator that it was just not Notre Dame’s day.
“He did some things well,” DerCola said. “Plays were there to be made, and we didn’t make them. That’s football, who can make the plays.”
The Jugglers did have one more chance after the interception, however. After an Oneida punt, the Jugglers went into desperation mode, throwing the ball on every play. Unfortunately, the Indians quickly became wise to the strategy, intercepting O’Shaughnessy one more time before the final whistle blew. From there, three knees put the Jugglers (2-2, 2-2 B East) back to .500.
For Fuller, he got just what he wanted out of his Indians.
“We wanted to be physical on both sides of the ball, and that’s what we got,” Fuller said. “The kids played well, they played physical and bought into the hard work,”
The celebration for today’s victory will be short-lived, however, as the Indians welcome perennial Class B contender Mexico to Oneida on Friday. The Tigers shut out previously unbeaten Central Valley on Friday, but Fuller is not worried about the Indians’ preparation for what should be a tough test next week.
“There’s no rest for the weary,” Fuller said. “They’re good…we’ll have our hands full, but we’ll just go to work. We treat every game as a business trip.”
Hopefully, Monday’s practice will be business as usual for Fuller and the Oneida Indians.
Oneida Indians 20, Notre Dame Jugglers 7
Oneida 0 14 0 6 20
Notre Dame 0 0 0 7 7
O- Kaleb Albro 13 yard run (Johnathan Holmes kick), 8:22
O- K. Albro 1 yard run (Holmes kick) 1:01
ND- Zach Brush 46 yard pass from Jack O’Shaughnessy (Tom Roefaro kick), 10:36
O- K. Albro 20 yard run (kick failed), 3:04