While Oneida Middle School achieved its drive for five, it didn’t mean they had an easy road.
The Indians took their fifth AAA middle school championship title in as many tries on Saturday night. However, Jacksboro found a way to battle, giving what Oneida head coach Heath Sexton called their toughest challenge.
“That was an all-out war. I mean that,” Sexton said to Jacksboro in their postgame huddle. “That was by far the toughest game we’ve played in my 11 years here.”
Oneida’s challenge came away a lot closer than the 28-18 final score.
To Jacksboro, though, Sexton’s comment was something they could take as an honor.
“When you can come out here and have a coach from a winning team come and say that he’s as proud of us as he is his own team, that’s something you’ve got to build on,” defensive specialist Jared Ray said. “You’ve got to congratulate yourself, because that’s a big honor.”
“They’ve won it five years in a row, and that’s the best game that’s been put up on them,” Max Farris said. “I’m pretty proud of that.”
Jacksboro managed 171 total yards, while amassing only 29 across the ground against the Indians.
With Oneida’s high-powered offense, they managed 344 yards on 50 carries inside L. Hope Dossett Stadium, while averaging 6.9 yards per carry for the game.
“They’re just so physical and so big,” Jacksboro coach Mike Miller said. “They’re just so hard to stop.
“They’re just a hard team to beat. This is a hard district. Anybody could beat you on any given night.”
Nash Lay led the Indians with 142 yards on 15 carries (9.5 per carry). He managed three touchdowns and a two-point conversion on his way to becoming Offensive Player of the Game.
Jacob McGuire was named Defensive Player of the Game. He finished the championship contest with seven total tackles to lead both teams. Landon Reese (six tackles, fumble recovery), Farris (six), Ray (six), Shane Bowman (five), and Josh Lay (five) all had more tackles than any Oneida player.
“We’ve only lost to one team,” McGuire said. “It was them. If we lost to anyone, it would be them, because they’re a really good team. It means a whole lot that I could step out here and make a difference in our defensive play.”
Bowman also had a good night on the offensive side of the ball. He threw 14-of-30 for 142 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Bowman averaged 10.1 yards per completed pass.
“I thought he did a real good job,” Miller said. “He’s just a seventh grader. He’s going to grow and mature.”
For Bowman, however, he knew it was a tough fight for the Eagles.
“It was a battle,” he said. “It was a battle for four quarters. We worked hard enough this season to be here, and we deserved to be here.”
The Indians got things started on their first drive of the game. Going 72 yards on 10 plays, Oneida found an early 6-0 as Nick Lloyd took the direct snap from 9 yards out. Ray stopped the two-point try by Logan Marlow with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
A fumble forced by Seth Cross was recovered by Jake Lawson on the Jacksboro 35-yard line. Eight plays later, Nash Lay went the 7 yards needed. His two-point try was good, as the Indians led 14-0 with 4:31 left in the first half.
A penalty-filled drive, which consisted of 60 total yards of penalties, was Jacksboro’s first scoring drive as both team managed 30 yards of penalties. Bowman went 5-for-8, hitting Josh Lay from 12 yards out for the score. The two-point try failed, as the Eagles trailed 14-6 with 32 seconds left in the half.
Oneida struck again with 3:55 left in the third quarter. Nash Lay found a seam around the left guard for a 50-yard scoring run. Lawson went up the middle for the two-point try, leaving the score 22-6.
Jacksboro found their second score with 15 seconds left in the third quarter. Bowman connected with Eli Cross from 10 yards out. The two-point try failed, as the Eagles trailed 22-12.
An interception by Seth Cross set up Oneida’s next score. Nash Lay finished the five-play, 35-yard drive with a 1-yard jaunt. The two-point pass, their only attempt of the game, fell incomplete to leave the score 28-12 with 2:25 left in regulation.
Jacksboro went 53 yards on five plays for the game’s final score. Bowman’s pass was tipped by Seth Cross and hauled in by Reese for the 12-yard score and a 28-18 final score.
For the eighth graders, it was their last game as an Eagle.
“We’ve been proud of them all year,” Miller said. “They’ve worked hard, and that’s what it takes.”
To Bowman, the game was simply humbling.
“I’m proud of my team.”