Who's Playing?: Oxford (4-1 [1-0 in 1-5A], #5 AP & MP, #4 CL, #1 in 5A [CL]) vs. Saltillo (5-1 [1-0 in 1-5A], #7 in 5A [MP])
What?: Second Region Game
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field
When?: Friday, October 3rd @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account
The Lowdown: With West Point out of the way (for now), Oxford can now focus on the rest of the regular season. It starts with a home date with Saltillo who made the playoffs as a 4-seed last year and gave Callaway everything they wanted.
Saltillo still has their stud RB from last year in Diamante Pounds. Oxford proved that he was ineffective last year rushing 22 times for just 73 yards (the third lowest total last year for Pounds, and the lowest total in a game where he rushed it at least 20 times) and did not find the end zone, aided by the fact his QB-partner in crime went down early in last year's game and their offense went to a standstill because of it. Oxford was also the only team that did not allow Pounds to have a rush of at least 15 yards. Their offense is producing to the tune of 32 points per game this year. Their opponents are not weak (6A Desoto Central, 4A Pontotoc, 4A Itawamba among others), but aren't really strong either save for Tupelo who is really strong defensively and held this team to nine points in their lone defeat. The Tigers have won by sizable margins in all of their other games. One thing that has hurt them a bit is getting out to big leads (and by big, I mean 30-50 point leads) and then let the opponent hang around. Saltillo scored 34 points against Desoto Central in the first 15 minutes but did not score again. Last week, Saltillo got out to a 51-0 lead on Lake Cormorant in the first 27 minutes, but allowed the Gators to get it to 51-35 with nine minutes left in the 4th quarter. IF Saltillo gets to that situation, they can't lay back. They know exactly who they are up against.
Oxford played without Metcalf last year. We saw how he tortured West Point when they were brave enough to go at him one-on-one. Metcalf in the first half alone caught three balls longer than 30-yards down field and drew two pass interference penalties. It has been proven they are extremely difficult to defend without drawing a flag. If the opposing secondary is having trouble with the pass like West Point did last week, the running game will open up and other plays for Kenzie Phillips who won't be thought about just like the Hook & Ladder play last week where the LB on him quit after Zach Cousar made the catch.
Pounds already has more than 1,000 yards rushing on the year including a whopping 234 yards last week against Lake Cormorant. The run defense is going to have to stand tall this week much like last year or Saltillo is going to control the game. It would not surprise me if the Tigers use a gameplan that keeps the ball away from Oxford. It will work if they can establish a running game.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Stop the Run - It's no secret Saltillo is going to try to run the ball with their 1,000-yard back in Pounds. Saltillo could not produce much offensively when their No. 1 offensive player couldn't move the ball.
Continue the Flow on Offense - Not one team has yet to really stop Oxford (not even Starkville who gave up more than 500 yards). Oxford abused West Point's defense and racked up 500 yards in that game. Abraham is putting up numbers never seen before by other Oxford QB's who were great in their own right.
For Saltillo to Win, They Must: Pound the Ball - Sorry for the bad pun, but it's true. Saltillo has built a West Point-style offense in running the football with a big-time player toting it. The Tigers does do other things on offense, but it is built off Pounds.
No Mistakes on D - It is hard to defend the wideouts Oxford have with Metcalf and Cousar causing huge matchup problems. Saltillo lost the game last year because Kenzie ran wild and had more than 200 rushing yards. The Saltillo D will have to step up to have a chance; Oxford's D won't have another game like Starkville.
Other Notes: Jack Abraham has 1,591 passing yards on the season, nearly halfway to the 3,572 passing yards record he set last season over the course of 15 games. Abraham's passing yards is currently 2nd in the state (Myles Brennan - St. Stanislaus). Diamante Pounds currently ranks 3rd in the state in rushing (Jordan Wright - Pearl, and JaMarcus Bradley - Choctaw County).