Last season the Indian reservation's war drums beat rather loudly indeed as Oneida finished 7-3 during the regular season and won a playoff game before falling in round two to end up 8-4 overall. Co-Head Coaches Jimmy May and Keith Henry have a good thing going. Oneida has built a solid winning tradition as the Indian's 24-20 school playoff record indicates. Oneida won the State Title in 1992 and has finished runner-up six times. The Indians also own 11 District or Region Championships.With a solid group of players returning, another trip to the playoffs is a virtual certainty in 2003.
Oneida boasts a stalwart defensive unit that gave up an average of only 15 points per ballgame a year ago. Several returning defenders give the Indian's the opportunity to scalp plenty of opposing teams this year.
The defensive unit features a nasty group of defensive linemen led by All Region end Jason Miller (6'3" 190). This outstanding senior will be called upon to lead his younger mates like three year starter and fellow end Bo Kidd (6'0" 220). Kidd is a junior. Sophomore Paul Hall (5'10" 215) started all 12 games as a freshman last season. Senior Kris Chambers (6'0" 230) is a two year starter at tackle. Senior Jeff Slaven (5'10" 225) will see plenty of playing time and supply must needed depth along the defensive line. Oneida will be strong up front and that is key especially in Class A high school football.
The Indians have only one returning starter at linebacker but senior Dustin Morgan (5'11" 165) was the second leading tackler on last year's team. Two more starters must be found at LB but there is no shortage of candidates. The sophomore foursome of Cameron Spradlin (5'11" 170), Bobby Simon (5'10" 150), Jonathan Lewallen (5'10" 160) and Jonathan Cotton (6'3" 180) are ready to fight for playing time and continue the tradition of defensive excellence at Oneida.
Two starters are back to roam the secondary in search of thievery. Free safety Rhyne Douglas (5'10" 150) could be locked up for a long time with as many interceptions (10) as he picked off last season. Douglas is a junior with All Star talent. One of the cornerbacks will be fellow junior Zach Smith (5'9" 145). Smith stepped in to intercept two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Two more defensive backs need to step up for the Indians.
Offensively, there are All Star returnees aplenty! Oneida should improve on their 17 points per ballgame average in 2002. The offensive line returns intact. Sophomore Sam Cross (6'0" 180) started all 12 games as the anchor at center. Chambers is one of the guards and along with Kidd at right tackle. Both were Honorable Mention All Region. The left tackle will be sophomore J.C. Palfreyman (6'1" 195) who also started every game in 2002. Slaven will find a spot along what could be an excellent offensive line.
The news gets even better for Oneida fans at the skill positions. QB Smith is a three year starter as the Indians' signal caller. He was voted All Region at this key position last season.
Smith will have tight end Miller to look for in passing situations. Miller caught 10 balls for 185 yards and a touchdown. One of the flankers should be junior Devin Crabtree (5'9" 140) who made 4 receptions for 25 yards. Both should achieve better numbers in 2003. Cotton will also line up at tight end.
Oneida is also loaded at running back! Douglas was both the Indians' leading rusher and receiver last year. Douglas earned All Region and All East Tennessee honors for his efforts. He will be joined in a potent backfield by Morgan, who was also voted All Region a year ago. Sprandlin and Lewallen will get opportunities at fullback while Simon will get carries at tailback.
"We can be competitive in our region if we stay healthy and gain experience and depth at linebacker and running back," said Coach May. "We are still a young team with only five seniors that have game experience and we will start at least six sophomores."
That is bad news for Oneida opponents this year and next! As the Indians race onto Dr. M.E. Thompson Field between a swath of well wishers by running through a tunnel beneath the home bleachers, they will hit the warpath loaded with weapons. 2003 could indeed be a special season in a special place to play high school football. Tradition rich Oneida will have their reservation war whoopin' bigtime this season!
TNPrepSports.com Prediction: 9-1
Playoff Contender: How about State Title contender!
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