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?: Second Region Game
Where?: Saltillo High School
When?: Friday, October 4th @ 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: Oxford is riding high after starting 5-0 in a front-loaded schedule full of traditional powers and defending state champions. They feel real good now about their chances in 5A.
Saltillo is hoping to catch them in a trap game and spoil those chances. They do host Oxford tomorrow.
Oxford cannot rest easy after FINALLY (understating the word) beating West Point last week. Saltillo is the most improved team maybe in all of 5A over the last two years and host the Chargers this week. They would love nothing more than to steal the driver's seat from Oxford with the hopes that the Chargers are thinking this will be a cake-walk. Saltillo over the past decade has not been a very good team until recently. The Tigers themselves are having their best start to a season in a long time. The Tigers are coming off an impressive 32-13 win over Lake Cormorant to start their region play record at 1-0. Their one loss came at the hands of Tupelo who is ranked in the Top 10 statewide in almost every poll.
This will not be an easy road game for the Chargers. They need to come off that win over West Point, (temporarily over the next few weeks anyway) forget about that game and focus on a much-improved Saltillo team than even from last year. Saltillo's one loss was at home but as mentioned it was to now a Top 10 ranked Tupelo team who has shown they might be able to steal one from South Panola or Olive Branch this year. The Tigers have thumped teams they are supposed to thump and beat Desoto Central by blocking a Field Goal late to preserve that win.
Saltillo's offense is potent - they are averaging 30.5 PPG - and is based on a big-time rushing attack that is averaging 230 yards a game and have a total of 16 rushing touchdowns. Diamante Pounds - their leading RB - is already just 25 yards short of a 1,000 yard rushing season in just 6 games. They have given up points on defense giving up 16 PPG. Saltillo knows that stat may likely not hold up this week facing a tough Oxford offense that stands a threat to run or throw it at any given time. Oxford has scored at least 30 points in each game thus far, Saltillo knows it has a tough assignment ahead of them to even slow down the Chargers.
The Oxford coaching staff may have its toughest assignment they may have all season - getting the Chargers ready for this game right after beating the Green Wave. Just like with the East Side game after beating Starkville, they cannot get complacent - this will certainly be not near as easy as the East Side game was. This game is worth more too being it is a region game - Oxford can run the table with West Point out of the way, but against the best team I think there is in the region after Oxford and West Point. If Saltillo wants to have a home game in the playoffs for the first time since I don't know when, it must go through the Chargers or the Green Wave. This one against Oxford Saltillo has at home, because they don't want to earn it when they must travel to West Point later in the year.
Oxford needs to come out with the mindset like it has all season long. If they do, Oxford will have a much easier road to the one seed.
For Oxford to win, they must: Stop the Rushing-Duo - this sounds like a broken record but this is true once again. Pounds and Tollison - their Quarterback - has accounted for nearly 1,300 rushing yards through six games. Oxford did a solid job last week against the run-heavy West Point team making them tote it 58 times to get their 300 yards - about 75% of those the Green Wave earned. The job this week is that they need to make Saltillo earn every yard they get.
Make the Tigers Get In Passing Situations - Oxford is facing yet another team who's completion percentage is sub-50. Saltillo has thrown 7 picks in 58 passes, Oxford has 7 picks in the last 36 opponent pass attempts. It's clear that Tollison must make good decisions when he is throwing the ball or Oxford's ballhawks will have a nice dinner Friday.
Execute on Offense - A good offense is a great defense. Oxford's up-tempo style might be facing its second-easiest test so far this season (knock on wood), and should put up another 30+ number again - making it harder on Saltillo to run their offense which is mostly made up on the ground, which takes a lot of time off the clock - thus making them throw it which we know is not their strong suit.
For Saltillo to win, they must: Keep Oxford's Defense Off-Balanced - by that I mean they need to consistently throw it enough where Oxford doesn't focus in on the run nearly every single down or if they get behind the chains or behind in points become a predictable throwing team. Saltillo has only thrown it 58 times this year - and 7 of those 58 were picked off (which is a horrid 1-to-8 ratio). Oxford has only given up 28 passing yards in their last three games and have 5 picks. The Tigers must throw it when Oxford isn't expecting it and execute it when they do. That's not hard right?
Saltillo's O-Line Must Win Against Oxford's Front-7 - The offensive line of Saltillo has obviously done a great job this year opening up the running lanes. Now must face the test of opening those same holes against a talented defensive front who just got off of a solid performance against West Point's O-Line. They need to or Oxford will tee-off in the passing downs looking for the turnover.
Stop the Ferrari - that is Oxford's offense who has yet to be held to less than 30 points each game so far this year. Everyone knows by now the up-tempo offense Oxford loves to play on. All 11 players that make up Saltillo's defense needs to do their job to make sure Saltillo is given chances to stay in this game. Oxford will score, but they need to limit their points to Field Goals and not Touchdowns.
Other Notes: Oxford won last year's meeting 37-7 in Oxford. After throwing 11 Touchdown passes in his first 3 games, QB Jack Abraham has thrown just one in his last two. Oxford is looking to go 2-0 for the first time in back-to-back years since 2005-06. DK Metcalf was cleared to play Wednesday, but it is unknown how many snaps he may see.