There was plenty of sloppy play, plenty of great plays, and plenty of exciting moments.
The biggest one was when Jamarri Sims and Tristian Shorter combined to stop Madison Central Jaguar Quarterback Vic Sutton just inches short of the end zone on a two-point conversion try to tie the game. Shorter then recovered the ensuing onside kick enabling the Oxford Chargers to run out the clock and top Madison Central 25-23 in the First Round of the MHSAA Class 6A Playoffs.
Early on both Oxford (10-0 overall) and Madison Central (7-4) were driving the ball down the field with some ease in the first half, but the drives ended really badly or with missed opportunities. Both teams had two turnovers in the first half and all four turnovers came with the ball in the opponent’s territory.
“It was kinda back and forth,” Cutcliffe said about the first half see-saw battle. “Both teams turning the football over. Defensively we made some big plays and kept ourselves in it. Offensively obviously we can’t turn the ball over like that. It was just kinda back and forth like that in the first half.”
Madison Central was unable to take advantage of a solid opening drive missing a 39-yard field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
After back-to-back long drives that ended with turnovers for both teams, Oxford was able to take advantage of a turnover first with an 8-yard touchdown run by Omar Howell to put the Chargers on the scoreboard first. Howell also took in the two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
After both teams turned the ball over again, Madison Central was again held out of the end zone, but this time was able to connect on a Matthew Huerkamp 30-yard field goal to slice the lead to five at 8-3 with 1:45 left until halftime.
On Oxford’s opening possession of the second half, Michael Harvey flicked a screen pass to Jalen Webb, then Webb did the rest racing 53 yards for the score and increase Oxford’s lead to 15-3 with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
But the score lit a fire offensively for Madison Central as they responded quickly with a five-play, 80-yard drive capped with a Sutton 21-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead right back down to five at 15-10 with 4:50 left in the quarter.
Harvey threw a pick on the ensuing drive and the Jaguars capitalized on it three plays later on a 17-yard Sutton pass and Madison Central took its first lead of the game at 17-15 with 2:28 left in the quarter.
The Jaguars then recovered an onside kick after an unsportsmanlike penalty put the kickoff in Oxford’s territory, but the Charger defense was able to hold Madison Central to a turnover on downs in four plays, giving the ball back to Oxford to stop the bleeding.
“We just played our game,” Cutcliffe said regarding the blitz of consecutive successful plays Madison Central had late in the third quarter. “We continued to stay steady and just stay confident in what we do. When you prepare well, you can have the confidence to not get rattled when things don’t go your way.”
After exchanging punts, Oxford marched 29 yards on eight plays, all runs, and capped the drive with a Jack Tannehill 28-yard field goal to give Oxford the lead back at 18-17 with 6:44 left in the contest.
After forcing a Madison Central three-and-out, Oxford caught Madison Central flat-footed after running 10 straight rushing plays and Harvey found an open Webb from 67 yards away to give Oxford a 25-17 lead with 3:39 left.
“Our team has a lot of confidence to continue to play,” Cutcliffe said. “One of the things we talk about is putting on more steam as the game goes on. I think we did that tonight. We were playing our best football at the end of the game.”
Madison Central then went into its two-minute offense marching 80 yards on 11 plays with Sutton scrambling in from 12 yards away to cut the lead down to 25-23, but as aforementioned, the Charger defense stopped Sutton inside the one yard line to keep Oxford the lead and then run out the clock after recovering the onside kick.
Oxford advances to the Second Round of the Class 6A playoffs as they will host region-foe Hernando. Oxford defeated Hernando 37-27 in the regular season at Hernando two weeks ago. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. next Friday.