The CL's last poll was November 5th until the end of the State Championships when they will release a final poll, ditto for MPB on November 13. Maxpreps updates their computer rankings every week on Sunday Night.
Note* - I will use the team's seed instead of any poll as a "rank" during the course of the playoffs.
What?: Second Round of the MHSAA 5A Playoffs
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field @ OHS
When?: Friday, November 22nd @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, Channel 97 (Metrocast) Monday @ 6 PM.
The Lowdown: The warmup game was completed last week as Oxford used a rapid-fire scoring surge to make a rather close game in the first half into a full-blowout 50-7. The Pearl Pirates was able to stop Aeris Williams and stop a surging West Point team in its tracks to win 33-20 - the game was not as close as the final score would indicate.
The Pirates will enter into its matchup with Oxford as the 2-seed for the third straight meeting from their region - however this time unlike the other two times, Pearl is the team that will be on I-55 traveling.
Pearl defeated Oxford in 2009 that had an injured Guy Cameron Billups playing in that game. In 2010, Oxford returned the favor and the Pirate's defense had no answer at all against Oxford's offense (remember the Top 20 games list I did last year? Yeah, that game). Pearl's defense only forced one third down in that game (which Oxford converted) without a Turnover and without a Punt - and the only times Oxford did not score a Touchdown was because the clock ended the half or the game.
Pearl enters this game sporting an 11-2 record whose two losses are to 2-5A Region Champion Callaway and a highly-ranked Brandon team who many considered the 6A favorite entering the year. The Pirate's schedule was not easy, they traveled to then-top ranked Brandon and fought to a 10-2 loss. They went out of state and played a Louisiana team that had gone 8-4 last year (but went 3-7 this year) and beat them. They also had two other 6A opponents and defeated them rather easily. They spanked the teams they were supposed to spank (including beating region opponent Vicksburg 37-7 that Oxford beat last week 50-7) before getting spanked themselves by Callaway in an odd blowout where the Pirates did not play good at all. In both of those loses, they did not score an offensive Touchdown.
Pearl would love nothing more than to upset Oxford on their home field, and would get to host Callaway for North Half in a revenge game en route to the 5A Title game assuming Callaway gets by Clarksdale. The Pearl team that showed up against West Point last week HAS to show up in Oxford tomorrow night and then some.
Oxford has dominated the latter part of the season blowing-out every opponent they have faced. This will be their first real test since their first five games of the year where every opponent was ranked in some poll either by classification or overall at the time and beating West Point back in September. Oxford has stayed sharp in all phases for the most part and when reality hit them in a game or two, they've answered the bell. They know they must answer the bell in this game. Pearl is a big time rival in all other non-"Big 3" sports.
A big key in this game is that weather will reek havoc on this game. It will rain the 24 hours prior to kickoff nearly the entire time. There is a very high chance it will rain during the game as well. Ball security will be big.
The question will be this: Which Pearl team will show up to Bobby Holcomb Field? The one that got destroyed by Callaway 2 weeks ago, or the one that dominated West Point last week? Whatever the case, Oxford must be ready for Pearl's A-game.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Exploit Pearl's D - Oxford is finally going to face a better defense in Pearl. Whenever a big game comes up with these players, the Chargers always seem up for it. We all know Oxford can pass the ball, Oxford will need to run it as well like they have all year to mix things up. Pearl easily has the best defense Oxford will see since September.
Execute on Special Teams - While that was a big reason why Oxford won last week (recovered 2 onside kicks in a row for that scoring surge that put the game out of reach early), Oxford left 7 points on the field because of three blocked field goals - one on an extra point, two on field goal attempts. The same player blocked all three, that needs to be fixed. That can go for a quick seven the other way if it happens again.
Watch for Trick Plays - Pearl wants to keep the ball away from Oxford's offense and keep the Pearl D fresh. To do that, they need to find ways to keep the ball. Fake Punt, sneak Onside Kick, ways that Oxford's Defense stays on the field besides moving the chains on offense, and of course score when they do have the ball. Oxford uses enough trick plays themselves to be smart about knowing when the other team might do it. Most of the time it gets snuffed out.
For Pearl to Win, They Must: Play Their Best Defense of the Year - It's been redundant to point out Oxford has scored at least 30 points in every game this year. Pearl needs to find ways to stop Oxford and to do it over and over again. To completely stop Oxford is close to impossible with all of their weapons, but if they hold Oxford to at least somewhere in the 20s, they have to feel good about their chances.
Take Advantage of Point Chances - If you have to kick a Field Goal, kick a Field Goal, but get points when you can. Oxford's D hasn't allowed many chances all year. If the Pirates get that chance, cash it in - attempt for 6, but make sure you get 3. Oxford will post points, but trying for 6 on 4th Down may get you 0 at the end on multiple tries.
Execute in All Three Phases, Including Special Teams - The most underrated part of the game is Special Teams. It's the reason Oxford had a first half lead on New Hope, put away Lake Cormorant early, broke Vicksburg's heart before halftime, gave a lead Oxford did not relinquish against Jackson Prep, and got away from Saltillo in the second half. OXFORD WILL MAKE YOU PAY if you screw up on Special Teams. Pearl needs to be ready on any Special Teams play and be able to execute - not just on offense and defense.
Other Notes: The winner of this game will either host Callaway or travel to Clarksdale for the 5A North Half Championship. Jack Abraham needs 3 TD passes to break Guy Cameron Billups single season record of 33 TD passes.