For one week, Norwich steps out of Section IV division play and has a golden opportunity to not only regroup, but take down one of the top-rated Class B teams in the state.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Tornado (4-2) visit number three ranked Oneida (6-0) in a Section III versus Section IV non-league crossover.
“A lot of times you look at team and they are either really strong or really athletic up front,” said Norwich coach John Pluta. “Oneida is both.”
As good a passing team as Oneida is – and quarterback Ryan Kramer is already well over 1,000 yards passing this season – the Indians are just as happy running the ball on sweeps, off-tackle runs, and counters, Pluta said, out of the “I” formation. “They also throw a lot to their backs and have a wide-open attack called the ‘Polecat Offense,’” the Norwich coach said.
The Pole Cat system spreads the field and receivers in a unique formation in which multiple receivers are eligible to catch the ball. “It’s not their base offense, but they might run that a series at a time,” Pluta said.
While Oneida is wide-open, Norwich looks to return to a ball-control offense that has been the team’s staple in Pluta’s long tenure. Norwich can take heart that the time-consuming, ball-control drives are still in its repertoire. The Purple Tornado marched 94 yards for a score last week against Windsor, although it needed to use the passing game more than usual.
“The biggest thing within our game plan is to control the ball and control the clock,” Pluta said. “We want to minimize their opportunities on offense and shorten the game. We’re capable of that, and we need to make plays on defense.”
Norwich also needs to start fast and limit early mistakes that have had it trailing in the first quarter in all but one game this season. “It would be nice to go out and get the early lead,” Pluta said. “We’re thinking too much about making mistakes. We just need to go out and play.”
Oneida’s tightest battle this season was a 14-13 win over Chittenango two weeks ago. Chittenango nearly hung a loss on Chenango Forks last month giving up a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter to lose 7-3. Two weeks ago, Norwich dropped its first game of the season to the Blue Devils, 21-6.
Below are the rest of this week’s local football contests:
Candor (5-1) at Oxford (1-5), Friday, 7 p.m.
Candor has won four straight contests since a week two blowout loss to Elmira Notre Dame. Cody Rose is among Section IV’s top-10 rushers, and paces the Indians’ attack.
Meanwhile, Oxford matched up Walton a week ago, and is happy to be back home. “We just played the best team that is out there,” said Oxford coach Mike Chrystie. “Not that any other team will be a cake walk, but no one is as physical and well put together as Walton.”
Looking at common opponents, Chrystie feels the Blackhawks have had the tougher road through six games, believing Oxford’s division is a bit deeper. “They do a lot of different stuff, and they’re good enough of a team that they could move the ball easily,” Chrystie said. “Candor deserves its record, but if we play our game, they are bearable.”..