ONEONTA – Oneonta trailed Norwich by 12 points midway through the second quarter, and it just had a fourth-and-goal stuffed at the one-yard line. Turns out, the Yellowjackets had the Purple Tornado right where they wanted them.
Riding the wave of momentum, the Yellowjackets finished the game with 32 unanswered points, and won the longtime rivalry game, 32-12.
“Momentum is a funny thing,” said Oneonta head coach Adam Hoover. “Once you get a little bit of it going, anything can happen.”
To Norwich’s chagrin, just about anything did happen after the first quarter, and most of it was bad.
Right after the stout defensive hold at the one, Norwich was forced to punt the ball back from its own five.Doug DiMartin returned Tyler Slater’s 36-yard punt 23 yards down to the 18-yard line. Seven plays later, Brendan Pidgeon dove over on a fourth-and-one for the first score.
It was just the first of many big plays for Pidgeon on the day, who finished with three touchdowns, two interceptions, and easily double-digit tackles.
Oneonta attempted an onside kick immediately after its first score, and would have gained possession if not for the hustle of Tornado up-man Mark Stanard. Stanard dove between two Oneonta special teams players to recover the ball at the Oneonta 44. On a third-and-five, opportunistic Oneonta ratcheted the momentum up a few more notches. Norwich quarterback Tim Clark had his pass batted up in the air by 6-foot-3 ‘Jackets lineman Dalton Smith, and Oneonta junior linebacker Pat Jeffries hauled the ball in racing 56 yards the other way for a stunning score with 47 seconds left in the opening half.
“We got down early, but everything (bad) happened in the first quarter,” said Pidgeon, who led his club with 154 yards rushing. “We knew we had three quarters to play, we shook it off (getting stopped), and kept going.”
Down by one, Norwich was on the move in the second half after stopping Oneonta’s first offensive possession. Tyler Slater’s 16-yard first-down run put the Tornado at the Oneonta 39. Clark was then called upon to pass, but was hit as he threw the ball, and Pidgeon picked off the pass at the 35.
Pidgeon moved the chains on a weaving 24-yard run, and quarterback Dan Broe made a precise 18-yard first-down pass to Michael Gilmore setting up a first-and-goal from the six. Smith scored from one yard out, and the extra point upped the margin to 20-12.
“We made a nice stop to start the second half and we were moving the ball,” said Norwich coach John Pluta. “Then we threw a pick and that led to a score. I think that was the story of the night – they made some big plays and they are a quality team. Once they started to roll, we got steamrolled a little bit.”
Pidgeon, who was on the verge of breaking a couple runs, finally burst into the Norwich secondary with clear sailing ahead. He scored on a 59-yard jaunt that upped the lead to 26-12 with 8:09 to play.
Norwich drove to counter that score getting a first-down run from Mike Moon, an eight-yard completion from Clark to Andrew Austin, and a five-yard scramble by Clark to the 49 to offset the Tornado’s five-yard false-start penalty. On a third-and-two, Clark’s attempted pop pass over the middle to David Carson was intercepted by Pidgeon at the 47. Pidgeon raced up the left sideline and jumped through Clark’s tackle attempt for a 53-yard TD that put a stamp on the contest.
“They had all the momentum in the world, but I thought if we got some of it back, we could do some things,” Hoover said. “I didn’t expect anytshing like this...we felt we needed to come out in the second half and do some more things offensively, and we were able to do it.”
Norwich struck for the first score on its second possession of the game – and on its first pass attempt. After a fourth-down conversion by Moon, Norwich went up top with Carson raking in Clark’s 59-yard TD pass.
Slater, who led Norwich with 62 yards rushing, scored from 34 yards out on the second play of the second quarter to make it a 12-0 contest.
Score by Quarters
NHS 6 6 0 0–12
OHS 0 13 7 12–32
N: David Carson 59 pass from Tim Clark (run failed)