Who's Playing?: Oxford (5-2 [3-0 in Region 1-5A], #4 AP, #5 CL, #6 MP, #1 in 5A [All polls]) @ New Hope (1-6 [0-3], NR)
What?: Fourth Region 1-5A Game
Where?: New Hope High School Football Field
When?: Friday, October 16th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio with Don Brooks and Denny Tosh on the call, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account (Link: HERE), thru the iScore Gamecast HERE (use ID 7DF28156B0 for entry if needed) and the iScore Central App on Apple devices HERE (download the app for free using that link, which will send you to the Apple App Store, after downloading and starting the app, search Oxford and/or New Hope for the game)
The Lowdown: Last year, this New Hope team was 7-0 and ranked in the AP Top 10 High School poll. Ever since that time, the Trojans have gone 4-8 and has lost 8 of their last 10 games.
A big reason for that is they somehow lost their good running back from last year - he was just a junior - that ran for more than 1,700 yards on the season. Another is they have a new quarterback in Thomas Stevens (Remember him? He starts for the New Hope Baseball team) as their quarterback was a senior last year. Stevens has a sub-48 completion percentage and has thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (5). That sounds like the recipe of an 1-6 team.
It also doesn't help that they average less than 75 yards rushing a game. About 28 percent of their offense goes through the ground. The other 72 percent goes through the air and through the inconsistent quarterback play. This is an offense that averages sub-270 yards a game. Is that bad? Well, it's not good.
Unlike last year where a win clinches a playoff berth, this year that is not possible since the best Oxford can do is be up two games on fifth place with three games still to play. Last year, Ben Bianco was also the starting quarterback for this game. Also last year, a New Hope football player had a flagrant targeting call and was ejected when hitting DK Metcalf intentionally high with the intent to injure him and knock him out. New Hope was held scoreless in the second half en route to a 42-21 win. Oxford scored 42 points despite not having Jack Abraham lead the charge. Makes me wonder how Oxford would fare this year.
This year, Abraham is back and has been red hot on offense leading them to 142 total points on offense. Oxford as a team has scored 156 total points in the three region games so far averaging 52 PPG. This is with Oxford having their second & third strings out for the majority of the second half in each of the last two games. Even they have scored 28 points while in the game for about four quarters.
The goal for this game other than to win is to not have a cheap-shot hit with an obvious injury risk by New Hope players. New Hope and West Point have proven that it is okay to intentionally hit a player without the ball and actually back that up. I give my chances at 10 percent of that happening.
Oxford should crush this team. What I'm worried about is just because "Oxford" is on the jersey, it is apparently okay to intentionally hit someone wearing that name on the jersey without regard for injury of the player getting hit. Until this stops consistently enough, I'll repeat this and say this every year.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Stay Hot on Offense - That's not difficult to figure out. Oxford for the two seasons prior is one of the state's leaders on offense. Oxford is rolling on offense the past three games. The game will take care of itself if they put up another 50 points.
Win the Battle Up-Front - The last thing Oxford needs to have happen is to have New Hope's running game get going. I do not ever recall the last team Oxford faced that had less than 100 yards rushing a game. Stop the running game and force the inconsistent passing game to happen.
Win the Turnover Battle - Oxford has committed just one turnover over the last four games and just five on the season. Over the same four games, Oxford's opponents have committed ten turnovers. The turnover battle is just as important to Oxford's success as is the offense.
For New Hope to Win, They Must: Find A Running Game - Seventy-Four Rushing yards a game. 74! That's not even the length from goal-line to goal-line. For the passing game to come close to working, the running game must be effective enough to keep the secondary honest.
(Without Cheap-Shotting) Play Solid Defense - New Hope already doesn't have a good offense, now they are up against north 5A's best offense. If they want any shot at winning this game, they must be able to stop Oxford enough and force some turnovers.
Win the Special Teams Battle - Oxford has started the last two games with an onside kick. Oxford has blocked a field goal attempt against Lafayette. Winning this battle can give the Trojans some better chances at this game.
Other Notes: Abraham Tracker - He needs 983 yards to reach 10,000 career yards and 5 touchdowns to reach 100 career touchdowns. The Chargers have won 18 consecutive 1-5A Football games.