SOUTHAVEN – One thing the Southaven Chargers should’ve known entering this game is to don’t count the defending 6A state champions out of any contest.
After all, Oxford’s Chargers did come back from 18 down to beat Oak Grove last December, which at the time was the biggest comeback in school history. Two weeks ago Oxford came back from 16 down to beat Lafayette. Friday night, Oxford trailed 28-8 with 5:50 left in the third quarter, but rallied with 23 unanswered points to steal the game from Southaven 31-28 at Southaven High School and start off Division 1-6A play on the right foot.
Oxford (3-0, 1-0 in Division 1-6A) struck first after Southaven muffed a punt at their 20-yard-line. Four plays later, Michael Harvey found DK Johnson from eight yards out. After a successful two-point conversion, Oxford took an early 8-0 lead with 9:05 left in the first quarter.
Oxford’s offense was stuck in first gear after that possession, gaining just 112 yards for the first half. Meanwhile, Southaven (1-2, 0-1) relied on the big play making abilities of wide receiver Isaiah Brevard. Brevard only had three receptions, but those receptions totaled 213 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, allowing the home-standing Chargers to take an 18-8 lead into halftime.
“I am proud of the effort that we played with to respond after being down by so many at half, so I’m very, very proud of that,” Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe said after coming back from another double-digit deficit for the second straight game. ” We got to play better early in games, there’s no doubt about it.”
On his last reception during Southaven’s first possession of the second half, Brevard dived for the end zone and ended up injuring himself on the play. To make matters worse, Brevard was ruled out of bounds before diving into the end zone, and Oxford’s defense was able to put together a goalline stand to turn the ball over on downs back to Oxford. Brevard would not return to the game.
“He’s a special player,” Cutcliffe said of Brevard. “I know that impacted their offense for sure in the second half. I was proud of the way we responded. We played against the run. I thought we got a lot better pressure on the quarterback in the second half. I thought there were some things we did a lot better in the second half.”
Southaven would get a safety on the ensuing Oxford possession after the goalline stand when Harvey retreated into the end zone before being hit and sacked on a third down play, increasing their advantage to 20-8. On their ensuing possession, Southaven would march 75 yards on seven plays, set up by a 50-yard rush by Dontavious Brevard, and capped by a fumble recovery by Omarion Johnson after quarterback Jordan Hibbler fumbled it on his third quarterback sneak attempt to bring the score to 28-8 midway through the third quarter.
Oxford then started their comeback on the ensuing possession. Trip Maxwell led the Oxford offense on a seven-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 33-yard Maxwell pass to Trynten Brannon to cut the lead to 28-15 with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
On the first play of the ensuing Southaven possession, Tristan Shorter intercepted Hibbler on a screen pass and dragged a pair of Southaven players 15 yards for a hard-fought pick-six and quickly brought Southaven’s 20-point lead down to just six at 28-22 with 2:54 left in the third.
“I tell people all the time Tristian just has the knack to make the big play,” Cutcliffe said of Shorter. “If it’s a third-down tackle, a fourth-down tackle, if it’s a turnover, whatever it is if there’s a big play, Tristian’s going to make it. He’s done it for three years for us. It doesn’t even surprise me anymore to see it to be honest with you because he does it week after week.”
Southaven’s offense would come to a complete halt especially after Isaiah Brevard left the game with his injury, unable to get a first down on their next three possessions. To top it, Southaven had punts of just 24 yards and 14 yards to set Oxford up in Southaven territory and the Oxford defense also forced another Phillips interception.
One thing Southaven did not do well was on special teams. Southaven does not have a place-kicker, a rarity for a 6A school, and went for two after each touchdown, only being successful on one try. Southaven also averaged just 15 yards per punt and just 25 yards on kickoffs, aiding Oxford in their comeback bid in the second half.
“Sometimes when you give up a touchdown drive or particularly right there in the second quarter when they had a lot of momentum, I was really proud to see us play that snap defensively with a lot of effort,” Cutcliffe said about those two-point conversion stops against Southaven which kept the deficit from ballooning even further. “They played really hard and got those stops on those two-point conversions because that did make a big difference.”
Oxford’s offense though was unable to move the ball once they reached Southaven’s red zone, with Southaven’s defense standing tall on all three occasions. Jack Tannehill then was able to boot through field goals from 25 and 34 yards out on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 28-28, and then from 37 yards out to take a 31-28 lead with 3:48 remaining in regulation.
“He is special and we’re spoiled I think,” Cutcliffe said of Tannehill. “We’ve been lucky that we’ve had a lot of good kickers at Oxford over the years. We’ve been very lucky about that. Jack was fantastic.”
Southaven would have one last chance to take the lead back, but Shorter came up with another interception by Phillips to seal the comeback by Oxford.
Phillips for Southaven was 9-for-26 for 293 yards and three touchdowns, but was just 2-for-10 for 28 yards and three key interceptions after Isaiah Brevard checked out with the injury. Dontavious Brevard rushed 19 times for a game-high 102 yards.
Maxwell for Oxford was 8-for-17 for 145 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Harvey was 6-for-13 for 100 yards and a touchdown as Oxford continues to use their two quarterback system. Johnson had seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Jaylen Webb had three receptions for 78 yards to complement Johnson. Oxford as a team had 15 total rushing yards. Shorter had two interceptions on the night and deflected another that led to Xavier Walton getting an interception.
Oxford returns home to Bobby Holcomb Field next week as they face Lewisburg for Homecoming next Friday. A full breakdown of the Division 1-6A scores and standings can be found below.