Mingled together on the turf at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium on a chilly Saturdya night, Oneida football players and fans reveled in the team's continued ascent into new and exciting territory.
With a 27-21 victory over Waverly in the Class B regional finals, the Indians secured its first-ever trip to the state semifinal round, where it will take on Section V champion Bath-Haverling at PAETEC Park in Rochester.
"It's another big win for us and our community," said senior quarterback Ryan Kramer. "And we're not just satisfied with this. We want to keep playing football."
And Oneida is still playing, as the lone Section III champion to make it out of the regional round. Henninger (Class AA), New Hartford (Class B), Westmoreland (Class C) and Dolgeville (Class D) all got knocked off before the Indians took the field, adding to the pressure it already faced.
What stood in the way was Waverly, like Oneida a first-time sectional champion. The Warriors, who had dethroned Chenango Forks on its way to the Section IV crown, exclusively ran the ball on offense and had plenty of defensive speed, too. It would not prove to be easy.
Yet Oneida set the tone when it received the opening kickoff. Usually, two return men line up in the back, but this time Kramer sat back there alone, with two guys in front waiting for an expected squib kick, including Joe McCormick.
Sure enough, the kickoff went right to McCormick on the right side. Picking up two great blocks, McCormick tore through a hole and never got touched, a 79-yard touchdown return that electrified the partisans in blue and orange.
"We knew we had to get up on them, so we could set the tempo," said head coach Bill Carinci.
By the time Waverly settled down, it was 14-0, and the game wasn't even seven minutes old. Following Jesse Christian's fourth-down stop, the Indians drove 58 yards, ending it when Kramer ran out of a closed formation 24 yards to the end zone.