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?: Fourth Region Game
Where?: New Hope High School
When?: Friday, October 18th @ 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 scoring updates via Maxpreps at this LINK.
The Lowdown: Oxford has overcome a lot of adversity this season: Playing Jackson Prep, Starkville and West Point where at least one media publication had picked Oxford to lose that game. Oxford has overcome several penalties on drives that would normally kill the drive but still scored anyways. Oxford has had to deal with a rash of injuries so far this year yet still function like a well-oiled machine.
Now the 4th-ranked Chargers must travel to New Hope where Oxford fans, players, and even coaches dislike the fans (mainly for the classlessness towards opponents in general), their players (that at times act more like spoiled brats than Jackson Prep), and the refereeing has been controversial at best in many contests held in "Trojan Country". Needless to say, New Hope honestly believes they can win this game. New Hope at home against Oxford ALWAYS seem to get all the bounces to go their way. Oh, by the way, New Hope picked THIS game to be their Homecoming game.
Now, a clearly more talented Charger team comes in than the teams that went down there and suffered defensively. The defense is much better, the offense despite missing some pieces is still better than back then, and New Hope is worse than they were two years ago. New Hope is a whopping 6-17 since their last win over Oxford and just 2-14 in 1-5A play, with the wins coming over Lake Cormorant last year, and Center Hill - who is 0-3 and 1-6 overall so far - this year.
Oxford has scored 30 points each game thus far and (believe or not) has just crossed the 40 point barrier for the first time this season last week against Lewisburg. New Hope's offense? Has only crossed the 30 point barrier once against a 2-6 Caledonia team. Their defense? While they do have two shutouts on the year, both came against weak opposition. Amory - without stud QB Jon David Poss - is a shell of their former self and was shutout (it was also that weekend where mother nature let her wrath come out). The Panthers have scored a total of 39 points in their last 6 games including the shutout against the Trojans. The other was to the same Caledonia team.
This may be as bad as last week scoring wise as New Hope has allowed 108 points over their last three games, but with New Hope you just don't know which team comes to play and how the game will be officiated in those parts (this goes to just about every sport). Oxford SHOULD win by a lot - but it would not surprise me if a few cheap shots were sneaked in there and made this closer than the talent level shows.
For Oxford to win, they must: Expect Anything on Defense - This is the most even in terms of play calling Oxford will face so far this year. New Hope is near 50/50 on Pass/Run (48% Pass to 52% Run). Their leading rusher does not even have 300 yards rushing but they have thrown for 1500 yards. Those 7-on-7 drills that led Oxford to their Top 4 National placing this summer? This is the first game that will really come in handy on defense.
Continue to Execute on Offense - Oxford has gotten used to Metcalf not being on the field, and they are still not being stopped by any defense. This week should be no different. The Trojan defense has as many flaws as any other team the Charger offense have faced thus far.
No Silly Mistakes - Oxford was penalized 14 times last week in a game where there was just 97 plays. Oxford was also penalized 12 times against Saltillo. 26 Penalties is far too many for Oxford to commit and still be successful. Those have to come down especially in a venue where calls haven't exactly been kind to opposing teams.
For New Hope to win, they must: Execute the Air Attack - For the Trojans to have a shot at Oxford, they must be able to get it done in the air. This is by far the best secondary they will face this season. Oxford does not allow many yards through the air, and the ground game hasn't been kind to opposing offenses either for the air attack to really work.
Stop the Run - I never thought I would ever say this to stop Oxford but the Charger run game is likely the single-biggest reason why this Charger team has been successful this year. Kenzie Phillips is a Sophomore in a Senior's body and is averaging 9.5 yards a carry this season. Oxford throws it as well as anybody, but if the Trojans can force Oxford to ONLY throw it, they will stand a good chance. They must stop Phillips first.
Get Off the Field - By that, I mean stop Oxford on third down. The Chargers in their last two games are 16-for-23 on Third Down Conversions. That's a 70%-clip. To put it simply, they want to see Cody Mills as often as they can - just not after Oxford crosses the Goalline.
Other Notes: Oxford can clinch a playoff birth with a win + losses from West Point, Center Hill and Lewisburg, making it mathematically impossible for Oxford not to make it. There is no scenario possible if those results happen that Oxford cannot make the playoffs. New Hope's combined opponent's record of their 3 wins this season is 5-18.