Nov 09, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Everyone involved in the Oneida football program had waited long enough for that moment last Saturday night when the team’s captains went to the 50-yard line and accepted the Section III Class B championship banner.
That wait had consumed three decades of sectional playoff competition, including three previous trips to the sectional finals in 1999, 2002 and 2004 — all of them ending in narrow defeats by four points or less.
It took the fearless leadership of Ryan Kramer and a determined senior class, plus a ferocious defense saving its best work for the biggest of games, for that long championship drought to finally come to an end.
And end it did, to the tune of a 20-0 shutout of Westhill that, in the words of long-time head coach Bill Carinci, took a big monkey off his back.
“It feels good to finally get one,” he said. “Many of these players came up as 10th graders. We had a sense that this could be a very good years. They are a tough bunch of players, and they play together as a group.”
As he had done all season, Kramer set the tone. He completed 12 of 23 passes for 226 yards, an average of more than 20 yards per completion, and also ran for 76 yards. Kramer either threw or ran for all three of Oneida’s touchdowns.
Yet as Carinci pointed out, every player had a big role in this victory — especially the defense, which picked a good time to record its only shutout of the season. It held Westhill to just 244 yards of total offense for the night.
All week long, Indian players had heard that its 50-7 romp over Westhill back on Sept. 12 only came because Warrior quarterback Mike DeCarr was recovering from an injury to his left (non-throwing shoulder.
DeCarr returned the next week, and Westhill had reeled off seven wins in a row. Knowing how dangerous the Warriors’ passing game could be, with DeCarr throwing often to Dan Ross, the Indians concentrated on covering Ross in every way, shape and form to force the Warriors to run the ball.
Immediately, that defense got a test when Ross intercepted a stray Kramer pass on the Indians’ first possession. When Westhill running back Sam Penizotto fought for more yards, he was stripped of the ball, and Jesse Christian recovered.
Kramer would throw another interception to Penizotto later in the period — but from that point forward, Oneida would not commit any more turnovers, a mistake-free effort that eventually would reap benefits.
As the Indians shut off the passing game and limited Penizotto’s advances, its offense took over on its own 17 early in the second quarter and began to move the ball, keyed by runs from Christian, who had replace an injured Rick Rossi at tailback.
From the Warriors’ 36, Kramer pump-faked, then threw long to a wide-open Nate Mallinder, who took it home for the touchdown. Kramer’s two-point run made it 8-0, a number that would stand until halftime.
Another big defensive test came early in the third quarter, after Penizotto’s 45-yard run moved the ball inside Oneida’s 20. Three good plays left Westhill stuck on the 10, and a 27-yard field-goal try went wide.
Moments later, facing third-and-10 on his own 20, Kramer fought past tackles and picked up 15 yards to get a first down. That single play sparked an 80-yard, five-minute march where both Kramer and Christian ran hard to wear down Westhill’s defense.
Moving to Westhill’s four-yard line, Kramer took over on fourth-and-goal, following great blocks to find the end zone and make it 14-0, and the momentum didn’t stop there.
On the ensuing kickoff, Oneida hit it off a Westhill player’s foot and pounced on it. By the time the staggering Warriors could recover, Kramer had scored again, on a 15-yard run with 10:45 left, and the Indians were on its way to a championship.
Just for good measure, though, Oneida made one more stand inside its own five-yard line to preserve the shutout, Wade Kline’s hit on fourth down ending the threat.
Now the Indians chart new territory when it plays Section IV champion Waverly Saturday night at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium at 6 p.m. in the Class B regional final. The winner advances to next weekend’s state semifinal in Rochester against Bath or Lackawanna.