What?: First Round of the MHSAA 5A Football Playoffs
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field
When?: Friday, November 14th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account
The Lowdown: Oxford has made it back to the playoffs and the real road back to the 5A State Title game begins Friday night. The Ridgeland Titans roll into Bobby Holcomb Field limping on a three game losing streak to finish region play and had to get help to just make it into the playoffs needing Callaway to lose against Pearl to help out on a 3-way tiebreaker that got them in.
Ridgeland faced a pretty tough non-region schedule playing the surprise team in 6A in Clinton who gave Starkville everything they wanted this past week. The Titans also played Grenada and lost to them handedly. Both of those games they had to play on the road and this one is no different. They also hosted 3-6A opponent Terry and lost to them as well in their one non-region game they hosted and won. Ridgeland's 5-6 record is more because they went out and played tougher opponents instead of 3A and 4A schools (or even lower). The Titans started 2-5A play 4-0 including a big win over Callaway and the rest of the region thought they were a shoe-in for the playoffs. The following week they lost to Neshoba Central and that very nearly cost Ridgeland a playoff spot. Had Callaway beaten Pearl, the Rockets from Neshoba Central would've been the opponent, but the fact is they aren't and Ridgeland is.
Whoever has been QB for Ridgeland has not been very good. Combined they have thrown for less than 1300 yards, completed less than 48% of their passes, and has thrown for more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). They've had to run it with their primary back who has rushed for more than 1,100 yards in Ja'Bril Haymon. He will have to carry them for Ridgeland to have any chance at all...
...because Jack Abraham and all of his weapons are back and were clicking on anything they tried last week (granted it was against 0-11 Lake Cormorant). Everyone looked to be in sync like they were earlier against East Side and Lafayette before injuries plagued this team (Abraham and Kyree White for multiple games, Kenzie Phillips for one game, Zach Cousar missed last week due to an illness) and yet still went unbeaten in region play.
To be completely honest, this is the first game Oxford has had all season where they had a fully healthy lineup going into a game that actually meant something. This is as good of a time as any to have a completely healthy lineup. The Chargers should not have too much problems with the Titans. The offense should take care of business and the defense shouldn't have a tall task beyond stopping the Titan run game.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Slash Through the Titan D - Oxford's offense is back at full throttle for the first time since before region play. This will be the easiest defense they will come across in the playoffs. I say "easy" but they got this far by beating out 4 other teams.
Stop the Titan Run - Because they can't throw it. This is the worst passing attack - regardless with who is the Ridgeland QB - with a sub-48% passing rate and having thrown more picks than touchdowns. Put pressure on their pass game and it should be cake.
For Ridgeland to Win, They Must: Establish a Run Game - It'll work for two ways: Keeps Oxford's O off the field (like other teams has tried to do), and does what they do best, run the ball. They need a running game to have any chance at all.
Find a Play Elsewhere - They need a cheap score like a pick-6 or an Oxford Special Teams blunder to keep themselves in it. They won't stop Oxford all the time, but the few stops they do get + a cheap score or two can give this Titan team a chance to shock the state of Mississippi.
Other Notes: KT McCollins broke the school record for Interceptions in a single-season with his pick-6 last week against Lake Cormorant. Zach Cousar missed last week due to being ill. Oxford's only other meeting against Ridgeland came in the 2006 playoffs where Oxford went to Ridgeland and won 35-14.