Who's Playing?: Oxford (3-1, #6 AP, #7 MP, #4 CL, #1 in 5A [CL]) @ West Point (3-2, #11 MP, #5 in 5A [CL])
What?: First Region Game
Where?: McAlister Field @ West Point High School
When?: Friday, September 26th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports and @WP_Athletics Twitter account
The Lowdown: The all important first region game of the year is upon us. Oxford has to travel to West Point. Last year despite West Point's defense giving up tons of points Oxford was "only" able to put up 30, its second lowest total of the year. Oxford also won without the aid of a passing touchdown - the only such game for Abraham last year, all three of Oxford's touchdowns came via Kenzie Phillips.
The Chargers are going onto a field they have never won at in recent memory. Of course last year was the first time Oxford has beaten West Point in some time. The Chargers last year was without DK Metcalf for the game as well, this time they will be without Kyree White who was having a big year to date having more than 500 receiving yards as he suffered a broken collarbone two weeks ago against Lafayette. White going down is a huge blow since defensive teams have doubled up on DK and has had to have their next best CB or tallest LB on Zach Cousar who is 6'4" or even taller. White is another team's #1 receiver, but is #3 for Oxford and is such a weapon Oxford is losing because of the talent that is on this team. White is usually manned up and he wins nearly every single battle.
West Point is an improved team on defense (they couldn't get much worse). They played Starkville but the Green Wave offense only scored 3 points. Oxford was able to score 29 and post 400 passing yards (and more than 500 total offensive yards) on that same team. Their offense without Aeris Williams has taken a hit however, so while the improvement on defense is there, they have not appeared to have improved on offense. They have been doing better leading up to this game scoring 35 on Columbus (but are 1-3, including a bad loss to New Hope) and 33 against Noxubee County (that has struggled).
Oxford's defense has shown mettle from last year but must prevent the big play from happening. East Side was able to put a simple screen pass together and 3 missed tackles later, the Trojan WR had the defense behind him. On a third down two weeks ago, Lafayette broke free on a 3rd & short situation and scored their only points. Starkville did it several times, many times due to missed tackles. The big play can't happen here or they will keep the Green Wave hanging around. The Charger defense has done well against the run (the first string has allowed just two conventional rushing TDs so far this year). KT McCollins is back fully healthy and got a pick last game. He will really help a secondary that had problems early in the year without him.
The off week last year really helped Oxford (they had to gameplan without Metcalf). I'm sure it will help this time as well. I said last year whoever won this year's game will win the next two as well. Oxford has the momentum running into this game. The fact that is was a group of Sophomores that really beat this team last year stems with confidence they will do it again.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Balance the Offense - A heavy dose of the running game proved vital in last year's win. Oxford went through the entire game without throwing a TD pass and still won. That doesn't happen often, which goes two-fold here. Oxford needs to throw it a bit more often than last year (and they have so far in their first four games), but under the same token, the running game hasn't shown up like it did last year and they will need one.
Make West Point Drive the Ball - The Charger defense did allow one big play on a pull-around draw last year but otherwise held them in check. Oxford forced West Point to make up 16-play and 13-play drives. One was punched into the end zone, one they held the Green Wave over on downs. Every other time they forced a punt or a turnover.
Win in the Trenches - Something Oxford has gotten better at but not where is should be since the start of the year is along the line of scrimmage. This game always comes down to this battle and Oxford won it last year. The Front 7 and O-Line was much more physical than West Point and the score proved it. Now they must do it again.
For West Point to Win, They Must: Establish a GREAT Running Game - Aeris Williams provided the offense last year, but Williams had to tote it 35 times and not one time did he get double-digit yard gains. While their gameplan might be the same from last year (hogging the ball, playing keep-away from Oxford's offense), their running game needs to be better than what they showed last year. About a handful (5 or more) 10+ yard plays is what I think is needed for West Point to have a chance and win like before.
Slow Down Abraham - Last year despite holding the passing attack to 0 throws completed in the end zone, they also went the entire game without forcing Oxford to punt the ball. They did force two turnovers, and held Oxford out of the end zone another 5 times in Field Goal tries (3 were successful), but not once did they force a punt. Oxford moved the ball all night. Each drive either ended in a touchdown, or went at least 6 plays.
Keep Control of Yourself - A fight nearly ignited during the waning seconds of last year's game. Cooler minds prevail all the time. Don't let something get in your head, or a suspension can come from it next week.
Other Notes: Kyree White will be out the majority of region play due to a broken collarbone suffered in the Crosstown Classic. Jack Abraham is averaging 302.3 passing yards per contest so far this season. Abraham threw for a career-high 368 yards against Lafayette one year after throwing a career low 121 yards.