Football Preview: Norwich renews rivalry with Oneonta

Norwich’s 80-year-plus rivalry with Oneonta resumes tonight when the winless Yellowjackets look for their first win of the season against a Tornado club that has won three straight games. The ‘Jackets have struggled with scoring defense throughout the first half of the season, and are giving up 46.5 points per game. In their division-opening game two weeks ago, Oneonta (0-4) fell to Chenango Valley, 40-13. Norwich (3-1), meanwhile, overcame some injuries to defeat Windsor last week in its Section IV Division III opener. “Our players definitely understand the importance of this game from a divisional standpoint, and as a rivalry game,” said Norwich coach John Martinson, who also knows it is sometimes natural for kids to look at a team’s record, and not give that team the proper respect. “This is definitely one of those ‘trap games,’ especially because this is such a long, heated rivalry. We must not look at what Oneonta has done, but what they can do.” The Yellowjackets will often operate a spread offense and no-huddle attack led by returning starting quarterback Brendan Lord. Oneonta is also known to run a similar offense to Norwich, one that favors a strong inside running game. “They have an excellent quarterback with quality receivers who have made some big plays,” Martinson said. “They will try to spread us out and try to take advantage of one-on-one matchups.”

Oxford (2-2) at Unatego (3-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Oxford coach Ray Dayton calls tonight’s game at Unatego “the biggest game in his coaching career, and the biggest game his team will play.” Beating the Spartans will be no easy task for any Class D opponent. Since losing to Chenango Forks in week one, Unatego has run roughshod over the competition, and routed previously-unbeaten B-G, 45-6 last week. “They have great personnel, and to me, their quarterback (Tyler Butler) is the premier quarterback of Section IV,” Dayton said. “He can run and he can throw. As a defensive coordinator, he’ll keep you up all night. More important, his decision-making is head and shoulders above anyone else we’ll see.” Butler is one facet of Unatego’s explosive offense. Running back David VanAlstine already has several long touchdown runs including a 90-yarder last week against B-G. “They have some great skill people, but we’re going to come out and play Oxford football,” Dayton said. “We really don’t know anyway else to do it. We have a pretty good running back and receiver, a solid offensive line, and a quarterback who can throw it well when he has time. We’ll do what we do offense, and we won’t change.” On the defensive side of the ball, Dayton was succinct. “If we had a better scheme, we would have already put it in,” he said. “What it’s going to come down to is our defense getting some stops. Sometimes your best defense can be a good offense.”

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