Key: MP = Maxpreps, USAT = USA Today, MPB = Mississippi Public Broadcast, AP = Associated Press, CL = Clarion-Ledger, NR = Not Ranked / For ranking use in the article, AP will be used first, if not ranked in AP (uses only Top 10) then CL (only Top 10), then MPB, then USA Today, then Maxpreps
Who's Playing?: Oxford (8-0 [4-0], #5 AP, #9 CL, #6 MPB, #11 MP & USAT, #2 in 5A (AP)) vs. Saltillo (5-3 [2-2], #10 in 5A (MP))
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field @ OHS
When?: Friday, October 19th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep up?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, Oxford Score Updates page on my website using the hashtag #themhills, View Online at misshsaa.tv/Oxford, Channel 97 (Metrocast) Monday @ 6 PM.
The lowdown: The No. 5-ranked Oxford Chargers continue to roll through the region schedule as it easily took out Hernando 31-0 last week to improve to 4-0 in the region (8-0 overall) and virtually locking off a playoff spot - to dumb it down, very specific things VERY unlikely to happen has to happen for Oxford not to make the playoffs at this point. Oxford has gone 8 straight quarters without allowing a point, having scored 64 points since New Hope scored 3 weeks ago to make it 22-17 in the 4th quarter.
Saltillo is a much improved team this year unlike last year that saw them go winless in Region play. They are 2-2 (and 5-3 overall) and looking to get into the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Saltillo almost did not go winless last year as they had the lead on Oxford in Saltillo but failed to hold on to that lead and lost the game in overtime 35-28, the closest they were to a region win last year.
This is the Homecoming game for Oxford and it is also the last regular season home game for the Chargers, making this Senior Night as well against an opponent that has not made the biggest splash - they have made a splash but not big enough per-say - and have that potential region showdown at West Point next week for the region crown. Let's not forget the All-Star selectons that three of Oxford's players earned on Wednesday.
Can you say "Trap Game?"
This has everything and then some for Oxford to look past this game and then lose to Saltillo. The Tigers are talented enough, especially on offense, to win this game if the Chargers fall into that trap. The Chargers cannot afford to look ahead, especially with the chance to lock up at least a home game for the first round of the playoffs with a win Friday - something Oxford has not earned since 2007.
For Oxford to win, they must: Own the Red Zone - I'm running out of 'sayings' but once again, the Oxford offense stumbled in the Red Zone (when Oxford is at or inside the opponent's 20) last week. They had two Touchdowns called back because of a penalty, one ended up resulting in a missed FG. This has been an ongoing problem all year as Oxford routinely has come up empty or ended the drive with a FG attempt by self-inflected mistakes in the Red Zone.
Continue to put goose eggs up - meaning, keep the defense up. Oxford has recorded two shutouts in their last two games and have gone more than 100 game-minutes since an opponent has scored. They have faced a passing team in Lake Cormorant and had to turn around and stop a run-heavy Hernando team. Oxford was successful in doing both. Now they face a much more balanced team in Saltillo. Can Oxford do it again?
Don't eat the "Eye Candy" - Meaning don't look ahead to next week, we know what is next week. Also, don't focus on the Homecoming activites that will happen during school this week. This is similar to the opponents before the TV game against Lafayette at the start of the year. Focus on Saltillo, focus on the fact that with a win, home field can be clinched for the first round of the playoffs. Enjoy Senior Night for the 10 minutes with your family, then fire away against Saltillo. There is plenty at stake against Saltillo.
For Saltillo to win, they must: Not make mistakes - the Charger's D has posted back-to-back shutouts, but more of that is the opposing offense making mistakes and not finishing drives deep in Charger territory. Should Saltillo find the Red Zone in the game, they need to make sure to come away with points - even if it is a Field Goal.
Stay loose; play with nothing to lose - The Saltillo Tigers really do not have anything to lose when it comes to football games. They are not known to be a power in football - certainly not within the last decade. That can be very dangerous for Oxford who many fans believe this one is in the bag. That is why they play the game, right? Saltillo should have the mindset of having some fun, and they might just steal one with Oxford celebrating everything they have going on with Senior Night and Homecoming - not to mention who Oxford has next week.
Weather: At Kickoff (7:00 PM): Clear, 57*F, Winds from the W at 3-8 MPH. Temps will drop to near 50 by the end of the game. This will be the coldest Football Night of the Season. It will be around 53*F-54*F at halftime of the game, dress accordingly.
Other Notes: Oxford can not just clinch a playoff spot but clinch a home game in the playoffs with a win (Oxford can also clinch a playoff spot if Clarksdale loses). Saltillo QB Andrew Soper was injured in the 31-7 loss last week to West Point and did not return - it is unknown if he will play in the game against Oxford. Senior Night will start at 6:30. Homecoming activities will start at halftime of the game.
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