ONEONTA – This walk-before-you-run process that is Oneonta High football in 2013 took a positive step or two Friday night, but there’s still a long ways to go.
The Yellowjackets dropped to 0-3 with a 48-0 Section Four Football Conference Division II loss to a Susquehanna Valley squad that fielded a far superior team.
“We played 2 ½ quarters of good football,” said first-year OHS coach John Mushtare, whose team has been outscored, 149-14, in the first three weeks. “We keep improving every week. I told the players today that we’re young and we’re going to make young mistakes. We made some mistakes tonight, but we played better.”
For a half and one drive into the second half, OHS played competitively.
Its three best offensive plays of the night came consecutively to start the third quarter.
Junior Skylar Thompson busted through a hole on the left side for a 25-yard gain on the Yellowjackets’ first play of the second half. Sophomore quarterback Jake Crotser then hit Mat Robinson for a 7-yard gain near the right sideline. Austin Scheer followed with a 20-yard gain around the right corner and OHS had a first-and-goal at the Sabers’ 8.
A touchdown and an extra point would have made it a 15-7 score.
Instead, Thompson lost 5 yards on first down and a hurried Crotser nearly was intercepted on second down. On third down, Crotser threw a perfect pass in the back of the end zone, but Robinson dropped it.
Then on fourth down, Crotser dropped to pass, was pressured immediately and eventually was sacked by Chris Vascello for an 18-yard loss.
Two plays later, Marquis Jackson raced through a huge hole on the left side, cut it to the sideline and used his considerable speed to sprint 66 yards for a touchdown. Lain Zembek’s extra point extended the Sabers’ lead to 22-0.
On Oneonta’s next possession, Jackson stepped in front a Crotser pass on the right sideline and returned the interception 55 yards for a touchdown, dragging Crotser the final 5 yards into the end zone.
“I read the quarterback’s eyes (on the interception),” said Jackson, a speedy junior who rushed 216 yards on 18 attempts. “I jumped in front of the ball and grabbed it.”
Jackson represented the one athlete for whom the Yellowjackets had no answer.
“I think last year we missed that home run threat,” said first-year SV coach Mike Ford, whose team improved to 2-1. “Having (Jackson) on the varsity makes a world of difference because he brings great hands, great speed, great defense and he’s a smart kid.”
Added Mushtare: “He’s shifty and he has that extra gear that when he gets in the open field, no one is going to catch him.”
Jackson played JV ball last season, but he said his teammates talked at halftime about how the Yellowjackets rallied in the second half last season to beat the Sabers, 38-26.
“Talking in the locker room kind of set a fire, because I guess last season they came back and won,” said Jackson, who also scored on a 37-yard run in the second quarter. “We weren’t going to let that happen this time, so we came out harder than the first half and just pushed until we got the victory.”
Defensively, in the first half the Yellowjackets made it difficult for SV. Seven times the Yellowjackets dropped SV ballcarriers for negative yardage. Defensive end Kirkland Dolan was in on several of those plays.
Also, Oneonta’s Josh Griffis intercepted a pair of Dave Matthews passes, the best coming on a leaping grab near the right sideline around the Yellowjackets’ 20.
But OHS’ offense generated next to nothing in the opening half while turning the ball over four times – three lost fumbles and one interception.
All told, 16 of Oneonta’s 42 plays from scrimmage went for negative yardage.
“We have to focus on the positives – the things we’re improving on and the things we do well,” Mushtare said. “We need to work on the things we’re not doing well. Our tackling was better this week than it had been the first two games. Our blocking was better this week. They threw some stuff at us in the last two quarters that bothered us, but it’s a process.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.