Oxford SportsSports

Oxford Begins 6A Title Defense with Win Over Grenada

GRENADA – With the pandemic going on, the season delayed two weeks, and both teams not scrimmaging against another opponent last week, mistakes were bound to happen.

The Oxford Chargers took advantage of more of the Grenada Chargers mistakes than the opposite in Oxford’s 37-20 win over the home standing Chargers at Grenada High School Friday night.

Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe elected to start Michael Harvey at quarterback and nearly went 55 yards on four plays on their opening drive to make a statement on offense early, but Omar Howell had the football stripped a yard shy of scoring and went through the back of the end zone for a touchback, allowing Grenada (0-1 overall) to gain possession.

That was short lived as Grenada quarterback Joshua Phillips fumbled the ball right back to Oxford (1-0). Oxford made Grenada pay for it with a four yard touchdown run by Howell. Tristian Shorter ran in the two-point conversion to give Oxford an 8-0 lead with 10:18 left in the first quarter.

After Grenada went three-and-out on its next possession, Oxford marched 49 yards needing just five plays to do so and Howell scored another rushing touchdown from two yards out. The snap on the extra point was rolled to the holder and fumbled, leaving Oxford ahead 14-0 with 6:59 left in the first quarter.

“I was really proud of Omar,” Cutcliffe said of his tailback. “I thought he ran behind his pads well. We really did a nice job up front setting the tone for the game early on. We hit a little lull running the football early in the second half and felt we picked it back up in the end.”

Special Teams Miscues

Grenada went three-and-out on its following possession, forcing a punting situation. The snapper flew the ball over the Grenada punter’s head with him falling on it for an Oxford safety giving the visiting Chargers a 16-0 lead with 6:11 left in the quarter.

However, Oxford would return that mistake with one of their own as the return team never fielded the ensuing free kick, possibly thinking it was still a punting situation, and Grenada fell on the football at Oxford’s 47-yard-line, giving Grenada new life on offense.

Grenada took advantage of the situation and marched 47 yards on nine plays, capped with a Phillips quarterback sneak to put Grenada on the board at 16-7 with 1:12 left in the quarter.

After an Oxford three-and-out, Grenada drove into Oxford territory, but stalled out the drive at Oxford’s 32, but again Grenada’s long-snapper flew the ball over the punter’s head. The punter was able to get back and field the ball, but his desperation punt was blocked and Oxford’s Kortlen Wilfawn grabbed the ball and returned it to Grenada’s 17. Trip Maxwell then entered at quarterback and two plays later found Trynten Brannon from nine yards out to take a 23-7 lead with 7:25 remaining in the second quarter.

The chaotic first half still had more to come as Grenada’s Joe Moss on their ensuing possession took the handoff 81 yards up the Grenada sideline for a touchdown and cut the lead back down to nine at 23-14 with 7:11 left in the half. Oxford then took their next drive 92 yards on nine plays and scored on fourth-and-3 with a 37 yard pass from Harvey to Jay Wortham to take a 30-14 lead with 4:41 left in the first half.

“A lot of new faces for us tonight for sure,” Cutcliffe said about all the new players making starts. “I was proud of the way a lot of those guys played. It’s muggy. We tried to play a lot of people to keep guys fresh and to keep them rolling in and out. I was really proud of a lot of guys getting on the field and playing well.”

Third Quarter Struggles

The second half was more tamer than the first, but Grenada was able to make the adjustment on defense and force Oxford to three three-and-outs to open up the second half, and then with Grenada on offense, they were able to keep the ball away, but rarely would they be able to cash in. Grenada fumbled their opening second half possession, turned the ball over on downs in the red zone, then finally scoring a touchdown on a 11-play, 49-yard drive that took more than five minutes off the clock ended with nine yard touchdown pass from Phillips, but the two-point conversion play failed, leaving the score a two possession game at 30-20 with 11:22 left in regulation.

“Especially in the second half, we felt like we got stuck out there a lot,” Cutcliffe said about his defense. “We gave up too many big plays for sure, but there were a lot of positives too. There were a lot of guys out there for the first time. Experience is the best teacher, so getting them out there and getting reps against a really good non-region opponent like Grenada. That’s going to pay dividends for our program.”

After forcing a turnover on downs, Oxford’s offense got back on its feet going 48 yards on six plays, ending with a Harvey pass to Wortham from 26 yards out. A Jack Tannehill made extra point pushed the lead to three scores and iced the game at 37-20.

Extra Points

Harvey was 8-for-17 for 173 yards and two touchdowns for Oxford. Howell finished the night with 17 rushes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Roman Gregory had 11 rushes for 74 yards to complement Howell. Wortham led the Oxford receivers with three receptions for 72 yards and two scores. For Grenada, Phillips was 11-for-26 for 115 yards and one touchdown and an interception and rushed 24 times for 179 yards and another score, but also lost two fumbles. Moss touched the ball 14 times for 152 all-purpose yards and a score.

Oxford will face Lafayette in the Crosstown Classic next week.

Ben Mikell

Ben Mikell covers Oxford, Lafayette County and Regents sports for the Mississippi Sports Network. Check out his OLR Sports podcast on Apple Podcasts, Buzzsprout, and Spotify.

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