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 (5-0 [1-0], #8 AP, USAT, #9 MPB, #10 MP, #3 in 5A (AP)) vs. New Hope (2-3 [0-1], #10 in 5A (MP))
Where?: Bobby Holcomb Field @ OHS
When?: Friday, September 28th @ 7:30 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, New Hope's Twitter Account (@newhopetrojans), View online at misshsaa.tv/oxford, Channel 97 (Metrocast) Monday @ 6 PM.
The lowdown: No. 8-ranked Oxford Chargers got the start it wanted last week, handling Center Hill 40-27. It was not as close as the score would indicate as Oxford had 2nd & 3rd String players in the game throughout much of the 4th Quarter and really could have scored closer to 50 points.
For the New Hope Trojans, it was the exact opposite. They lost to Saltillo 42-22 at home last week. Saltillo, a team that went 2-9 and winless in Region 1-5A play last year, ran away from New Hope in the 2nd Half outscoring them 37-14 (they had a baseball-like 8-5 score at halftime).
Both of these teams missed the playoffs last year despite both leading off Region play 1-0 last year. New Hope won last year's meeting 43-22 to get to a very good position of being 2-0 in 1-5A play. The 43 was the most New Hope scored in a single game last year (which has to make Oxford sick that they even lost to them). This was also New Hope's last win of the year - as they proceeded to lose 5 straight to finish the year at 4-7 and 2-5 in 1-5A play. They have gone 2-8 since defeating Oxford last season.
Oxford does not want the same thing to happen to them this year as it did last year after handling an opponent from the previous week (especially one that went on to win 1-5A). There was a distinct lack of effort in the game last year and the fallout that occurred from it was giving up huge plays en route to being routed on a team that was inept offensively for most of the year - except against Oxford.
For whatever reason, New Hope gets that spark inside of them when they play Oxford, no matter what records both teams have and who (clearly) had more talent. The Trojans have won the last three meetings against the Chargers. Whatever motivates them or whatever they have against Oxford to beat the Chargers has worked for the past three years.
This is a MUST-WIN game for Oxford, this is their second of three major tests for this Charger team this year. The first was getting over the Lafayette hump after coming close way too often. The second one is this week: getting over this New Hope hump - a team that just seems to have Oxford's number. If Oxford is going to not just make the playoffs but also get a home game for the playoffs in the first round and also have any chance at winning 1-5A, this is a game Oxford MUST win.
Not only is this a must win for Oxford, but for New Hope too. They can ill-afford to be in a 0-2 hole and make the playoffs with the 1-5A favorite West Point looming at the end of their schedule and defending 1-5A champion Center Hill also still on their schedule.
For Oxford to win they must: Stay focused for 48 minutes - In two of those three meetings against New Hope, Oxford had an early lead, but lost it and never caught back up to get it back. All three times against New Hope, Oxford had not played a 48 minute game. If Oxford plays their brand of football for 48 minutes (or however long they wind up needing) and stick with the game plan - much like they did against Lafayette, the Chargers should go 2-0 for the 1st time in region play since 2006.
Have no let downs - This goes for not just recent meetings with New Hope, but how they have played their past two games. Oxford built a 20-0 lead against Center Hill and a 17-0 lead against Senatobia. Both leads were nearly diminished in both games before halftime allowing them to have some sort of hope going into the second half (no pun intended). In the last two times against New Hope, Oxford had a 14-8 lead before coughing up 17 2nd Quarter points to trail 25-14 at halftime before losing 38-27. In the other game, the Chargers also led 15-9 in the 3rd Quarter before New Hope caught fire and outscored Oxford 34-7 in a 2nd Half rout. Oxford needs to have some sort of complete effort like the game against Lafayette and the Chargers should be able to beat New Hope.
Let the "special" players do their work - Not just QB Parker Adamson and his WR army on offense, but Kicker/Punter Cody Mills and what he does for this team. Oxford was successful in two onside kicks last week against Center Hill and has routinely kicked the ball into the end zone for touchbacks when he is not doing so - making kickoffs unpredictable to prepare for. He's also been able to boot punts much further than 30-35 yards every now and then (the average for a decent high school punter) and is able to kick Field Goals consistently if Oxford stalls in the Red Zone. Special Teams is critical in winning the field position battle and Oxford has the player that can win that battle every single time - it is near impossible to stop or even prepare for.
For New Hope to win they must: Do something to stop this offense - This is a team that has had a bunch of highs and lows on defense this year, and you cannot go much lower than giving up 42 to Saltillo who won its first region game in quite some time. They had also given up 60 to Noxubee County this year (albeit, having 7 interceptions committed by their offense in that game is not going to help your defense). But, they had given up just 9 to a decent 6A Columbus team and shutout Caledonia this year. This defense needs to rebound against Oxford and stop this potent offense from at least getting into the end zone. If New Hope loses because Cody Mills kicked 7 45-yard Field Goals, then they will go away not feeling that bad about their defensive effort, but they simply cannot allow Oxford to reach the end zone.
Have a short memory - Their defeat at home at the hands to Saltillo needs to leave their minds. As bad as that was, they need to focus on this game and try to rebound and get back to .500 not just overall but for the all important region record. As mentioned before, New Hope is facing an 0-2 hole if they lose this game, but they can be 1-1 and hold the tiebreaker over Oxford in the case of a tie in region records should they win. This game may make or break their season, they must put Saltillo in the rear-view mirror.
Then again, Have a long memory - As in, they know how to beat Oxford; they have done so the last three times. The seniors on New Hope's team does not know how to lose to Oxford (the only team this group of Seniors have not lost to in their region). If they can find that switch to turn on like they have the last two times against Oxford, they stand a good shot as any to pull the upset - again.
Weather: 75*F - Cloudy to Isolated Thunderstorms (20-30% chance) - Winds from the N-NNE at 2-8 MPH. Bring weather gear as it could possibly rain. The temps are expected to go down to the upper 60s by the end of the game.
Other Notes: This is New Hope's first trip to Bobby Holcomb Field since New Hope and Oxford became Region opponents in 2009. New Hope's "other" trip to Oxford was played at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the Ole Miss campus because Bobby Holcomb Field was flooded throughout the week and was unplayable. This is Oxford's first home game since the "Bright Lights" game against Lafayette in August. This will be the last football game to have a 7:30 PM start time this season due to the heat that August and September bring. All remaining games will have 7:00 PM start times after this game.
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