Who's Playing?: Oxford (5-1 [2-0 in 1-5A], #6 AP, #4 CL & MP, #1 in 5A [CL]) @ Lewisburg (4-3 [1-1 in 1-5A], NR)
What?: Third Region Game
Where?: Lewisburg High School Football Field
When?: Thursday, October 9th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports and @LHSAthletics Twitter account
The Lowdown: A well kept secret until just an hour before kickoff last week from the public had Jack Abraham go down to a torn meniscus that he suffered during the game two weeks ago against West Point on a intentional-appearing Face Masking tackle that went high as Abraham was scrambling on a failed pass play. The play pulled him backwards bending his legs to the extreme causing the tear. He played through it for the remainder of the drive which ended in a Touchdown but did not play another series after that. He's out for this week but appears to be on track to get back the following week against New Hope.
With Abraham out, Ben Bianco carried a completely different looking offense (a read-option based offense) but was just as effective with it. He and Kenzie Phillips ruled the ground game in a 49-16 rout of Saltillo last week. This week on offense should not slow them down as Lewisburg has allowed a whopping 38 points per game since shutting out 1A Mound Bayou JFK. Oxford destroyed the Patriot offense last year, however I see that as their "fluke" offensive game last year as it got extremely out of hand by the end of the first half even without DK Metcalf out there. The Chargers led 37-0 last year en route to a 40-9 2nd-half-running-clock win.
This team is like Oxford with Abraham at QB. They like to throw the ball. They have QB Jake Harville who is 4th in passing yards per game in 5A this year (223 YPG) and 2nd in total passing yards (1564) in 5A behind Abraham (despite Abraham not playing last week). He will likely take over first as he is just a little more than 30 yards behind Abraham and of course the Oxford QB will not play this week.
Kyree White is also still out but with Bianco only throwing the ball 14 times last week, his absence is making less of an impact which might be a good thing with Abraham out now as the offense is more run oriented. Lewisburg will have to play disciplined D to keep this game within striking distance. So far however, their offense has bailed them out of some of their bad D. Oxford's D with stud CB KT McCollins in the secondary - a guy who has picked off at least one pass in each of his three games he has participated in so far - will make their offense tougher to move the ball. The Patriot D still has to focus two players on Metcalf because he carries a huge threat in man coverage and Cousar is a tough matchup. Stopping the run with a double-covered Metcalf will be very key in this game.
If Lewisburg can stop Oxford with just 6-7 in the box, kudos to them. Even with Abraham out, the offense will still find mismatches and move the ball when they want to.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Win At the Line of Scrimmage - With Oxford going towards a read-option offense which focuses more on the run than the pass, the offensive line has to win their battles to allow this offense to motor. Bianco is not a bad passer in his own right (he was 10-of-14 last week), but he does better with his legs and makes very good decisions in either keeping it or handing it off.
Stop the Pass Attack - Harville never ever really got going last year going 8-for-16, 146 Yard, TD. More than half of his yards came on a failed interception attempt that went for 85 yards (but didn't score). Expect him to do better and have a better feel. He is only a Junior. The Oxford secondary will be tested. He also stands a threat to run the ball as he is their leading rusher.
Be Prepared for Anything - The QB can run it, pass it, or he'll hand it off. Next to Starkville, this will be the best offense the Charger Defense has faced so far as unlike other teams they are not one-dimensional. The Patriots are scoring 36 points per game so far this season. The Charger D cannot let down this game because this team isn't as good overall. Like Center Hill was last year, offense is not the problem with this Lewisburg team.
For Lewisburg to Win, They Must: Keep Oxford Off Schedule - That is when they are on offense. A run-based team needs to win on first and second down to avoid 3rd and 6+ yard situations. While Bianco isn't a bad passer, you would much rather take your chances with Bianco passing the ball than a situation where it is more likely they will run the ball. The Patriot defense isn't exactly what is called "stout" and they need to be to have a chance.
Don't Lose Possessions - This isn't referring to just turnovers on offense, but on four Oxford kickoffs Oxford managed to onside kick it successfully three times and in total has had the ball six more times than the opponent all in their last two games. It's already hard to stop the Chargers on offense. It is even harder when that team gets the ball again and again before the opposition can get their hands on it.
Don't Load the Box Everytime - Oxford still has DK Metcalf and they still have Zach Cousar who are big time mismatches. If they are manned up, Bianco doesn't need to be Peyton Manning-accurate for them to catch the ball even if Lewisburg puts up good coverage. They will win those battles. It just shows the tall task each defense faces every single week.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork and staff has set up a donation page after the Rebels defeated previous AP-ranked #3 Alabama 23-17. Ole Miss incurred a $50,000 fine by the SEC for rushing the field after the game for the third time in three years and needs approximately $25,000 to replace both goal posts that were torn down and other repairs to the stadium that were made during the game. You can donate at this website: https://ignite.olemiss.edu/project/5434027009206526352932a9
The project ends October 29th.
Other Notes: Oxford started a Sophomore QB for the second consecutive year last week. Oxford threw for fewer than 100 yards and won for the first time since defeating Tupelo in 2004 7-0.