Note* - For the sake of priority ranking, AP - which was polled by the media - will be used for ranking purposes. Maxpreps uses computer rankings. If the Clarion-Ledger or AP ranks one team - who uses just a top 10 - but the other is not ranked in the MPB poll - who uses a top 25 - the AP/CL will be used. MPB poll will be used if teams are ranked outside the AP/CL top 10.
What?: First Region Game
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field
When?: Friday, September 27th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, Channel 97 (Metrocast) Monday @ 6 PM, LIVE online-streaming via the NFHS Network at this LINK.
The lowdown: This may very well be the North Half Championship game this season.
Oxford has had 2 weeks to cool off from their 30-0 win over arch-rival Lafayette and prepare for this game. The Chargers smell blood - they saw a middle-of-the-pack 6A team beat West Point 41-14 in West Point the same week Oxford put up a suffocating defensive performance on Lafayette. Oxford is boiling to prove themselves in 5A so far. The Chargers are 4-0, they've beaten everyone on their schedule which one can argue was the toughest Oxford has put together in more than a decade. Three of the four opponents has won at least one state championship the last two seasons and all of them made the semifinal round of their respective playoffs last year. However, the one hump Oxford has repeatedly failed at to get over is beating West Point in football.
I do feel however that whoever wins this game will win the next two years as well. Oxford has the firepower today and the next two years to score on anybody with this Sophomore class and the things they have done already this year, if West Point doesn't figure out Oxford's up-tempo style - different from past Oxford teams running a slower-style of the spread offense and out of the "pro" set - they won't win the next two years either. If Oxford should lose, the mental aspect will not allow them to get over the hump the next couple years.
Since 2005, Oxford has never lost to West Point by more than 15 points in any of the 8 meetings between the two teams, however Oxford has never beaten the Green Wave, coming within 2-4 points in half of the meetings - mostly in the same manner Oxford has done during their 6-game losing skid to Lafayette - making just one more play than Oxford. If Oxford wants to prove they are a threat to deal with in 5A, they must beat West Point - the runaway favorite this year to win 1-5A despite their current 2-2 record.
West Point's defense has typically held Oxford JUST enough to win over the years - this year, they've given up point totals of 55, 33, and 41. That will not get it done against the rapid-fire offense Oxford runs. Yes, the Green Wave only gave up 6 to Noxubee County last week - but remember, that is the same Noxubee County team that was shutout by Starkville who gave up 35 to Oxford the following week in their own backyard. Also, the weather last week on Friday Night was awful (non-stop rain caused havoc across the state last week) - causing much of the game to be played on the ground.
If Oxford's defense shows its mettle like it did in the Crosstown Classic and even just slows down the Green Wave, this streak will get snapped and Oxford will start 1-0 in Region play and can be in the driver's seat early in this division in this match that decided 1-5A last year.
There is blood in the water, even the Landsharks at Ole Miss can smell it. Can Oxford finally take advantage? We will soon find out. I would assume a bet of shaving Coach Hill's stache if a win were to happen is on the line as well.
For Oxford to win, they must: Stop the A-Train - This is almost a carbon-copy blueprint of the Crosstown Classic, stop one player and make the others beat Oxford instead. Aeris Williams is West Point's big threat like DK Buford is to Lafayette. He was held to 36 yards against Columbus. Ironically this was the same number Oxford held Buford to. Williams had 150 yards last week - but took him 36 carries to get there. It can be done.
No Gifts - I mean don't put the defense in a bind. The past three games, Oxford had at least one turnover in their own territory giving the opponents a short field. Starkville had two that gave them 10 points - one was a pick-6, East Side had one but did nothing with it, Lafayette had one on the first possession but went backwards. It also points out the stellar job Oxford has done defensive just giving up 3 points in those three turnovers they had a chance to be on the field. The Chargers cannot continue to have this happen especially in the first half which is where all of those turnovers happened and get behind.
Don't Let Off the Gas Petal - Oxford has "3 Modes" for their offense: Normal, Fast, and "NASCAR". When Oxford goes "NASCAR" and leaves pit road, it is hard to stop. Ask Starkville. They were looking for oxygen by the third quarter. Oxford cannot let the gas petal off on their tempo-based offense until the clock hits 0:00 during the 4th quarter.
Play for 48 Minutes - Oxford allowed 28 2nd Quarter points to West Point last year and that made the difference in the game. Most of it attributed to poor tackling on Oxford's part than West Point actually making plays. The defense played great for the other 3 quarters but had a mental lapse last year that caused them to lose that game. If this team plays as hard as it has for the past 11 quarters that included opponents such as Starkville, East Side - both who made their North Half games last year - and rival Lafayette like they did in the other 36 minutes of last year's game, this team stands a great shot at beating the Green Wave.
For West Point to win, they must: Find Something to Slow Down the Jack Attack - West Point prides itself on defense, and it has yet to really show up this season. While they did play South Panola and Starkville to start the season and gave up plenty of points, the 41 they gave up to Columbus was the warning sign. The Noxubee County game should be taken with a grain of salt. Starkville put up the goose egg then gave up 35 - They cannot afford to make this a track meet. They must stop Jack Abraham and company from rolling on offense or another number in the 40+ range will show up on the scoreboard.
Ride Aeris Williams - that is their offense and the reason West Point can put points on the scoreboard. They need a big game from him if the Green Wave is going to come out of Oxford with their 11th straight victory over the Chargers.
Win in the Trenches - Because to have a successful running attack, that is where it starts. Oxford's young offensive line is one of the best I've ever seen it and despite playing only 3 down linemen, the defensive line has been stout as well - they are allowing just a little more than 4 yards per carry with a defense the coaches have called "basic". Most teams think because they are allowing 170+ rushing yards a game that Oxford cannot stop the run - that is a big mistake. Oxford's defense has seen more than 40 rushing plays per game and beyond two rushing plays this season has not allowed the big play to happen on the ground. Opposing teams has had to drive against this defense. Oxford's defense this year has done a good job of that giving themselves extra chances to stop the offense.
No Turnovers - That has killed this team this year. 3 in the 2-Quarter Jamboree alone against Louisville, 4 to South Panola, 4 to Starkville, 6 to Columbus, and 4 to Noxubee County - that is EIGHTEEN TURNOVERS through 4 games! No team can win any game putting up those numbers in that stat category. To top it, they are playing against a team that has averaged 3 takeaways per game. The Green Wave must win the Turnover battle or it'll be another one of those shootouts they've been in.
Weather: At Kickoff: 77*F and Partly Cloudy (No Chance of Rain), Temperatures expected to drop below 70*F by the end of the game. Clouds are supposed to clear up as well. Winds Calm, may blow from the SE at 3-7 MPH (going away from the school).
Other Notes: Oxford is currently on a 9-game home win streak (last loss was to Clarksdale in 2011 to end the season). Oxford has scored in each quarter except once this season (2nd Quarter @ Starkville). Oxford's Defense has allowed only 11 total passing yards in their last two games along with garnering 3 interceptions. The Chargers have actually ran the ball more often than passed the ball this season so far.