Oxford Drills Through Olive Branch to Clinch Playoff Berth
The Oxford Chargers had a tough time getting going against the Olive Branch Conquistadors, but was only a matter of time before Oxford’s offense broke through.
The offense eventually got going and then the defense put the game away in the fourth quarter in Oxford’s 39-0 victory over Olive Branch. The win extends Oxford’s school-record win streak to 20 and officially clinches a playoff berth in the Class 6A playoffs that begin in three weeks.
It didn’t start easy for Oxford (7-0 overall, 5-0 in Division 1-6A) as the game remained scoreless until late in the first quarter when Olive Branch quarterback Ty Walton threw his first of five interceptions of the game. Oxford’s ensuing drive stalled at the Olive Branch eight yard line, close enough for Jack Tannehill to boot through a 25-yard field goal and give Oxford a 3-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the quarter.
“I though we played well defensively,” Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe said. “We tackled really well and played good fundamental discipline football. I was proud of those guys. Very sound assignments. Our defensive staff did a fantastic job getting ready to play against that (triple-)option offense.”
After another turnover by Olive Branch (4-4, 1-4), Oxford quarterback Michael Harvey found freshmen tight end Jack Harper for his first varsity touchdown from 32 yards out. After a successful two-point conversion, Oxford led Olive Branch 11-0 with 5:32 left until halftime, a score that would remain the same until halftime.
“We ran the ball effectively all night and that was really big for us,” Cutcliffe said about the offensive struggles in the first half and what kept Olive Branch in bad field position. “Our passing game did get off to a little bit of a slow start, but we some plays as the game wore on that we needed to make.”
After halftime, the Oxford defensive pressure increased on Olive Branch, forcing another interception from Walton. Omar Howell capped the ensuing Charger drive with a 1-yard dive to increase Oxford’s advantage to 18-0 90 seconds into the second half.
On the first play to begin the fourth quarter, Oxford quarterback Trip Maxwell found a wide open Trynten Brannon from 21 yards out to extend the Charger lead to 25-0 four seconds into the quarter.
Oxford’s offense literally did not see the field again after that. On the next two Olive Branch possessions, Walton threw his fourth and fifth interceptions of the night to Tristian Shorter and Jamal Giles, who each had a pick-six from 72 and 66 yards out respectively to give Oxford the final margin. Olive Branch was unable to score on its last possession.
“Tristian does it time and time again,” Cutcliffe said about his senior linebacker. “He’s always around making a big play. It doesn’t surprise me at all anymore. An outstanding football player, he’s always the guy that makes the big play.”
Oxford will travel to Hernando next Friday with the possibility of clinching the division title with a win and a Tupelo loss to Horn Lake next week.