The CL's last poll was November 5th until the end of the State Championships when they will release a final poll, ditto for MPB on November 13. Maxpreps updates their computer rankings every week on Sunday Night.
Note* - I will use the team's seed instead of any poll as a "rank" during the course of the playoffs.
What?: North Half Title Game of the MHSAA 5A Playoffs
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field @ OHS
When?: Friday, November 29th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated? (All of the following are the known outlets as of release time): 95.5 FM WOXD Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, @NationsSports Twitter Account, Channel 97 (Metrocast) to be shown on tape delay at least Monday.
The Lowdown: It doesn't matter how you look at it. Callaway found a way to be 14-0, their best record in school history.
They found it by winning at the last second (Germantown), by forfeit (Canton), or flat out stomping opponents (Pearl, Clarksdale). The fact of the matter is that they are undefeated and have certainly earned their way to this game against Oxford regardless of what their record is supposed to be. The only record that matters is that they are 2-0 in the playoffs - the same as Oxford.
Callaway was touted preseason, they have four D-1 players committed to Ole Miss. Anybody who has that much talent is bound to be very good and Callaway certainly has the ability to be that and have been playing like it lately. It has been noted extensively in Jackson that a Jackson Public School (that includes Jim Hill, Forest Hill, Wingfield, Provine, Lanier, Murrah, and Callaway) has not had one team reach the State Championship game since 1999. Callaway has not made it since 1984 - their only other appearance in a State Championship game.
There's one other problem: Oxford has just as much talent if not more and they have shown it all season long - Oxford is also unbeaten. Oxford's way of being unbeaten has been simple: Scoring plenty of points and having a stout defense. Oxford has scored at least 30 points in every game (I sound like a broken record) and have won every game by double-digits.
Two players have committed to D-1 schools, a bunch more underclassman will soon see offers on the table the way they are playing. Oxford has been playing as well as anybody - especially on offense where in their last 7 games they have scored at least 39 points in each game. Let's keep this in mind: Oxford scored more than 39 points just THREE TIMES in the LAST TWO YEARS. That's how on fire this offense has been - despite any weather conditions.
Callaway certainly has the talent to keep up. The coaching? I don't know. JPS schools haven't been known for their coaching - Provine sure didn't when they came to Oxford back in 2004 having given up just 7 points all year with all that talent on offense and defense and then lost to Oxford. Their undefeated season came to a screeching halt.
Callaway has a good defense, but when scouting their schedule - I see 38 given up to a bad Murrah team, and 33 to Saltillo - a team Oxford just gave up 7 on the road. As far as offense goes, they have put up 20 against a bad Jim Hill team, 14 to Canton who didn't make the playoffs, and 12 to Germantown where they had to win at the last second.
They have put up 52 on Pearl, 56 on Saltillo, and 51 on Clarksdale. While Oxford has put up less numbers than those, it's worth noting Oxford puts in the second-string units on offense earlier than most coaches and other teams. Against Clarksdale, Oxford had a running clock by the fourth quarter.
Callaway's offense uses misdirection - like others Oxford has faced - four different players have either or are nearing 100 carries on the season and all have at least 750 rushing yards on the year. They are about an 80% run / 20% pass team - and Oxford has stuffed any run game they have come across this season. If Callaway has to throw the ball, that is trouble.
Oxford has answered the bell all year long. Against Jackson Prep coming off an undefeated season, when they got behind in Starkville, when Lafayette got a short field early, when Center Hill kept up with Oxford for a half, when the offense didn't do much against New Hope and Saltillo for a half, when Vicksburg got on top early, when Pearl made it somewhat of a game on a Special Teams mistake, Oxford has responded when they have needed to and put games away without it needing to come down to the last minute. Can Oxford do it again? My gut says it won't faze these kids regardless of situation.
For Oxford to Win, They Must: Win in the Trenches - Oxford has done this all year, but this time two of the linemen they will be facing are going to Ole Miss next year - one on each side of the ball. They are anchoring their lines that basically are the reason why Oxford is here - hold your line and let your play-makers do the rest. This is where the battle will be won and what will determine the game.
Run the Football - This is by far the best defensive front Oxford has faced this year except maybe Jackson Prep - Oxford's first opponent 3 months ago. If Oxford blows a block, you can bet Callaway will be there to make a tackle - and they don't miss often. Callaway has a D-Linemen going to Ole Miss next year, look for Oxford to gameplan around him and make others make plays. Running the football consistently will make them stay on their toes when Oxford decides to pass.
Fix Special Teams - Oxford has picked a terrible time to be screwing up a lot on Special Teams. During the playoffs, Oxford has seen 5 Field Goals blocked (2 FG, 3 PAT), a Punt blocked, a bobbled PAT, and finally a mishandled Punt. It led directly to 14 of Pearl's 21 points last week and cost Oxford a total of 19 points both ways. For those counting at home, it has cost Oxford 24 points over the last two weeks. That can't happen. That needs to be fixed before this game comes.
For Callaway to Win, They Must: Slow Down that Offense - This goes without saying really. Callaway has not seen an offense as diverse as Oxford where any one of five players eligible to get the ball from the QB could get the ball and could take it to the end zone or get 20+ yards down the field. One way to disrupt that: Get to the QB. To get there, they must get through a stout O-Line that has been great all year long and has not gotten more credit than they deserve this year.
Keep Your Defense Off the Field - Meaning their Offense needs to move the ball. There have been times this season they have not, this can't be one of them with a very talented Oxford offense on the opposing side this go around. Canton, Germantown has shown it - and neither of them made the playoffs. Callaway must find ways to move the chains - and a pure running attack will not cut it, Callaway needs to throw it enough successfully to keep them honest.
Stay Confident - When it comes to playing from behind, Callaway has been there more often than not. Oxford has been there at times, especially early in the season, but Callaway has: Experienced a loss before having it forfeited, won on the last play after being behind all game, and been in more tight contests than Oxford has. Callaway needs to stay clam and not panic if they happen to get down 10-20 early and stick to the gameplan they come up with.
Stop Oxford on Third Down AND Fourth Down - Oxford is a whooping 51% on 3rd Down Conversions, and 100% on 4th Down Conversions when they go for it with Abraham at Quarterback. A big reason why Oxford's offense has not been stopped.
Other Notes: With a win, Oxford will have their best start in school history at 14-0 and their 2nd appearance in a State Championship Football game ever. The last time Oxford and Callaway met was in 2003 - the last time Callaway was a 1-seed in the playoffs - and Oxford won 26-0 as a 4-seed. Oxford proceeded to go to the Championship game that year.