Who's Playing?: Oxford (6-1 [3-0 in 1-5A], #6 AP, #4 CL, #5 MP, #1 in 5A [CL]) vs. New Hope (7-0 [3-0 in 1-5A], #10 AP, #19 MP, #4 in 5A [CL/AP])
What?: Fourth Region Game / Homecoming
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field
When?: Friday, October 17th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter account
The Lowdown: New Hope is quietly coming in undefeated and has been making some noise in the 5A polls as of late. This is no doubt an improved team than in the past 2-1/2 years where they went a total of 7-20 after they last beat the Chargers in 2011. They have as many wins as the last two-plus years combined. They have made a big jump with their first-year head coach. The controversy surrounding the ousting of the previous coach is much more a memory now than it was just a few months ago.
This is an improved Trojan team, however they have faced no one currently ranked higher than 45th in the Maxpreps rankings (while Oxford has faced 4 such opponents inside the top 30). The last three wasn't really a choice they had due to region play (Clarksdale who is 1-2 in 1-5A, Center Hill also 1-2, and 0-7 Lake Cormorant), but playing Caledonia, a bad Columbus team, and an unimpressive Amory team is not exactly scheduling the tough opponents, but they have won those games with manageable margins. They know they will get their first big test of the season. The teams they beat in 1-5A play are 2-7 in the region combined through no fault of their own. They have beaten every team that has been on the schedule. Previously, some odd let down would have cost them a game by now.
Oxford is expecting Jack Abraham to return to the lineup after a two week absence from a knee injury suffered during the West Point game. New Hope must be ready for either QB to play because they are two VERY different styles should Abraham be unable to go. Bianco is a read-option running QB while Abraham is a passing QB with a steady dose of the run. It will be a risk for New Hope's defense to decide to focus on one QB or the other's style of offense. One thing is for sure though, DK Metcalf will make things harder for the Trojan D.
New Hope QB Stone Sisson has done a better job than former New Hope QB Brady Davis in throwing the ball, completing 65% of his passes - by far the highest completion percentage QB Oxford has faced all year. He only has thrown two Interceptions entering this game - but then again, the competition hasn't been stellar either, but nonetheless this QB can throw it accurately more than any other team Oxford will see. Against anybody, completing 65% of your passes is doing a good job with the arm. While the Trojans can throw it, their play-calling has been two-to-one run to pass. They will run it more often than not, but this is much more like the first two games of the year where Oxford can't determine whether or not they will run it on first down.
This has turned into Oxford's biggest test since the start of the year. Thankfully it is not at New Hope because we all know how questionable the refereeing can be down there.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Establish What They Do Best - whoever is at QB, the run (Bianco) or the pass (Abraham) must be established for the other to work. The run game in both cases needs to be established, but more-so for Bianco's sake since he runs a read-option offense.
Win First Down - This Trojan team is more balanced than others. The Charger D must force second and third and long situations where they know they need to throw it.
Play Like It Is Any Other Game - For whatever reason, Oxford tends to play terrible against New Hope even in the last two wins against them, it took forever to really get going in both wins. Oxford must play their game whatever that may be and should win pretty handily.
For New Hope to Win, They Must: Establish the Run - A QB who can put it on the money will love a run game and open up the play-action pass. Oxford needs their front line to do another good job in stopping the run to prevent the passing game from opening up. Like last week, the QB can run it as well.
Don't Force the Pass - KT McCollins jumped on a route last week and should've taken it back for a pick-six. He has an interception in each game he has played so far and has a knack for finding the ball. Sisson needs to throw it away from his side if he has to force the ball to a receiver.
Win up Front - Oxford has been improving on both sides of the ball. If they want to do anything, they must keep those lines in check.
Other Notes: This is the first time since 2011 against Clarksdale (who was 6-4 entering the game while Oxford was 5-5) that the opponent enters an Oxford game with a better overall record than the Chargers. New Hope is 7-0 while Oxford is 6-1. KT McCollins has Intercepted at least one pass in each game he has played in so far this season (5 INT's in 4 games).