What?: Second Round of the MHSAA 5A Football Playoffs
Where?: McAlister Field @ Hamlin Stadium at West Point High School
When?: Friday, November 21st @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account
The Lowdown: Oxford's trek to get back to the 5A State Title game will go through the team that has won 7 of them.
The Chargers have never defeated the Green Wave in the playoffs going 0-4 against West Point (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009). However, Oxford has won the last two games including this year's 43-22 win at the very same place Oxford will do battle again. Despite those two wins, Oxford has not been fully healthy on offense. The Chargers played without DK Metcalf last year and was without Kyree White this past meeting with the Green Wave, but neither time they were really affected. Jack Abraham got hurt in that game that caused him to miss the following four weeks due to a cheap-shot face mask penalty after Abraham was clearly going to get away from pressure and get yards. The defender went unnecessarily high on him and pulled Abraham backwards with his feet planted, causing the meniscus to tear up. The Chargers managed to get fired up after Jimmy Greaser - who was picked on for a fight by a West Point player - knocked that same player back hard (twice) eventually drawing his own penalty but fired up the entire Oxford sideline. After that point, West Point did not score again (let alone cross midfield) and could not stop the Oxford offense.
Because of what is really a real bad rule where the team that has hosted the fewer number of home games gets to host and that is how West Point is hosting this game. With the next round being the higher seed getting to host and THEN whoever hosts the fewer number of home games, Oxford will host no matter who comes from the other side. More on that when the time comes, first though Oxford must take care of business at West Point again.
West Point's offense had to go through a face-lift after an injury to their starting running back happened after the Oxford game. It turned out to be a little blessing because their offense somewhat improved since then. I had said in the previous pre-game that their offense wasn't as good without Aeris Williams and it proved to be the case, but with new members running the offense more effectively, the Green Wave could give this Oxford defense some fits.
Oxford's offense though has certainly improved despite not having their full complement of players between the last meeting and now. The offense has never clicked like it is doing now having gotten 42 and 48 points in the first HALF let alone the entire game in the last two games. West Point never stopped DK Metcalf as Metcalf himself drew four pass interference penalties on his own and otherwise shredded the secondary. Kenzie Phillips has been on a roll the past few games not needing to tote the ball a ton and getting of ton of yards and finding the end zone at a rate that should be eye-popping. Phillips is also not going down and not getting hit near as much as a feature back will usually find himself in, so he is very healthy heading into the stretch run only toting it 150 or so times during the season. Phillips is only averaging 12-13 carries a GAME. Many backs average 25-30 carries and get worn down near the end of the season. Oxford can hand it off to Phillips now at a higher rate and not have to worry about his workload. If he continues to kill it in the run game, the passing game will stay as open and with DK Metcalf drawing two defenders every game, they can't load up the box unless West Point wants to risk man coverage that killed them in the last meeting. The penalties have also dropped, with Oxford drawing just 7 flags in the last two games after averaging 10 or so every game.
It will take a lot to stop Oxford's offense. The WR corp is as good as anybody's in high school, a feature back that just doesn't go down easy, and I never even mentioned the Oxford secondary that has 21 interceptions on the season including the 7 from school-record holder KT McCollins. The front 6 for Oxford has stopped the run more often than not this season and with Oxford scoring at the pace it's been going, they don't need to stop it much before handing the defense to the secondary. The Oxford defense has forced 34 turnovers on the year (an average of nearly 3 per game). Oxford stopped West Point from ever getting into Oxford territory in the second half. West Point knows this is the most complete team they will face this season besides maybe Starkville.
To put things simple, West Point has to play the perfect game even at home, because they can't do the things that has won them games in the past like ticking people off, pushing the opponent's buttons, and pounding out yards with the run game. Oxford's defense is too tough and Oxford's offense is way too talented. It cost them last time and the time before that.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Play With Hunger - "Finish the Drill" has been the motto this season. This team has been starting the drill with perfection lately. That didn't happen in the last meeting where Oxford trailed much of the first half. If Oxford starts like they have started the last two games, it'll be hard for West Point to catch up.
Stop the Run (again) - Seems like I say this every week. West Point's offense is mostly a running attack. Oxford for all but one play stoned that run game last time and the time before that. Play discipline defense and Oxford's offense will have an easier time.
Stay Mistake Free - The penalties has dropped lately, no bad plays on offense and no big plays on defense has really happened and not many turnovers on offense. Oxford is starting to do the little things right that is starting to win games in routs by halftime and not by the middle of the second half. That of course must continue through the playoffs.
For West Point to Win, They Must: Make No Mistakes - It cost them momentum last time by making a stupid Personal Foul penalty before halftime, and West Point never got that momentum back. The defense can't allow Oxford's receivers to get open or aid them with penalties. The offense can't turn the ball over and give Oxford easy distance to points.
Have the Secondary Be Perfect - They need to. No penalties, no big plays, make the tackle after any successful Oxford catch, no "YAC" yards from anybody. They need to make an effort to do that or Oxford will get away from them.
Stay on the Field on Offense - Get first downs, keep Oxford's offense on the sideline, keep drives mythical and score in the red zone. Take 3 points if you have to, but don't think you have to get 7 each trip. Like the Jackson Prep game early in the year, 3 points could mean a LOT down the line. West Point has to trust the defense can get stops and they have to get stops. If not, it will play into Oxford's hands.
Other Notes: With a win over West Point, Oxford will host North Half regardless of opponent. Oxford will host due to being the higher seed (via the new seeding rule that was passed this year for North Half games) over New Hope, and Pearl because Oxford has hosted the fewer number of home games (both Oxford and Pearl are 1-seeds). Kenzie Phillips is averaging less than 6 touches for every touchdown he has scored this season. (150 carries, 26 TD's) Oxford's last road game in the playoffs was at Starkville in 2012.