Sep 05, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Somewhere in the final minutes Friday night at Earl Hadley Stadium, Jeremy Rodriguez turned into Ryan Kramer.
Okay, maybe that didn’t literally happen. But what the Oneida football team’s new quarterback, and his mates, pulled off in the Indians’ 14-13 win over Solvay in its 2009 season opener was as exciting as anything Kramer did in his storied career.
Shaking off a rough game-long baptism into the rigors of Section III varsity football, Oneida, with 20 starters gone from last year’s team that went to the state finals, erased a 13-0 deficit in the game’s final four minutes, winning with the boldest possible move.
Whether it was penalties, or turnovers, or a total lack of rhythm, Oneida could do little on the offensive side as Rodriguez tried to get comfortable with his daunting role as Kramer’s successor.
A lot of it, of course, had to do with a Solvay defense bent on restoring its own pride in the wake of an uncharacteristic 2-6 campaign in 2008 that stood in total contrast to Oneida’s magical run.
Every time the Indians got close to scoring, Solvay kept them out, forcing a pair of turnovers, both fumbles. Of course, Oneida kept the Bearcats away, too, and the two sides went to halftime 0-0, waiting for someone to break through.
That proved to be Solvay. Midway through the third quarter, the Bearcats moved to Oneida’s 11-yard line, then scored when Brian Wright hit Taylor Delperuto in the end zone. John Savo’s extra point made it 7-0.
So it remained until the middle of the fourth quarter. From Oneida’s 12-yard line, the Bearcats’ Robert Jackson found a hole and didn’t stop until he had a touchdown with 5:02 to play. The missed extra point kept the score at 13-0, though the way Oneida was going, few thought that would matter.
Perhaps the desperation of the moment was what Rodriguez needed to find some magic.
From his own 48, with 3:40 left, facing a fourth-down-and-15, Rodriguez had no choice but to throw deep – and he found the swift Mike Rabbitt, who went to the end zone on a 52-yard TD play.
Still down 13-6 after a missed conversion, Oneida had to make a defensive stand, and did so. With 1:53 left, the Indians took over on its own 32, with one more chance.
As if he were a veteran, Rodriguez guided the Indians back into Solvay’s red zone. From the Bearcats’ 17 with just 11 seconds left, Rodriguez again looked for Rabbit in the end zone and found him for a touchdown.
That made it 13-12. The choice now was whether to try for a tie or a win.
Oneida head coach Bill Carinci chose for the latter. Solvay expected another throw – but instead, Nate Mallinder, one of the Indians’ few remaining ’08 stars, ran the ball and found his way past the goal line for the winning points.
Following this splash of pure drama, Oneida tackles Homer this Friday at 7 p.m. The Trojans won a wild 35-28 battle with its biggest rival, Cortland, and is a perennial Class B contender.
Meanwhile, Solvay will try to shake off this dramatic defeat when it goes to Phoenix Saturday at noon.