For the first three games of the season, the Oxford Chargers had trouble getting off to fast starts. In each of the last two games they’ve been able to play, that problem looks to be solved.
Oxford extended its school-record winning streak to 19 games by trampling all over the Horn Lake Eagles 50-27 in a battle of the last two Class 6A Champions. The final score was not as close as the game indicated as Oxford was well in control leading 43-0 at halftime. The Chargers have outscored its last two opponents 82-0 in the first half of their last two games.
“We wanted to start fast, especially early in the season we had problems starting fast early in the games,” Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe said. “I think they responded to that challenge and played well early.”
Oxford (6-0 overall, 3-0 in Division 1-6A) started things off with a blocked Horn Lake (3-3, 3-1) punt by Alex Sanford that was recovered by Tristian Shorter at the Horn Lake 18. Five plays later, Omar Howell punched it in from two yards out. Howell added the two-point conversion to give Oxford an 8-0 lead with 6:40 left in the first quarter.
The Chargers were able to get an onside kick, but turned the ball over on downs on four plays afterward. After an Eagle three-and-out, Oxford used a six-play, 78-yard drive capped with a 53-yard screen pass from Trip Maxwell to Jay Wortham to increase the lead to 15-0 with 1:49 left in the quarter.
On Oxford’s next possession after another Horn Lake three-and-out, they used a seven-play, 49-yard drive capped with a Michael Harvey pass to Alec Vaughn from 10 yards out to give Oxford a 22-0 lead with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, Horn Lake fumbled the ball away to the Chargers at the Eagle 34. Two plays later, Omar Howell punched it in again from two yards out to give Oxford a 29-0 lead with 4:19 left until halftime.
Horn Lake again was forced to a three-and-out, and then Trip Maxwell threw two bullets. One to Jalen Webb for 39 yards, and then another to Wortham from 23 yards for another score to give Oxford a 36-0 advantage with 2:05 until halftime.
“We knew coming into this season we were replacing a bunch of people on defense,” Cutcliffe said about his unit, which pitched a first half shutout for the second straight game. “I think we’ve seen our team get better every time we’ve taken the field. We got guys learning and growing and just continuing to improve. I thought we tackled well, lined up well, we played physical up front. I was definitely happy with the way we played in the first half.”
After a poor snap on a punt attempt had the punter Aaron Lyons get tackled at his own 30, Harvey found Wortham again from 40 yards out as the clocked ticked to halftime to give the Chargers a huge 43-0 advantage at halftime.
“Jay has proven to be a huge playmaker,” Cutcliffe said about his wideout. “There’s no doubt about it. I think we’ve done a good job at being balanced in the passing game. Had a lot of guys stepping up and making plays. I thought both running backs played well. Our offensive line I thought were tremendous tonight, I was really really happy with those guys.”
Horn Lake had a couple deep ball scores from quarterback Jahiem Oliver to Jamorris Hopson to get on the scoreboard. Hopson ended up with six receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns which looked real good on paper, but the majority of those yards and both scores came after Oxford’s starting defense checked out of the game with the wide margin.
Oxford added a score by Roman Gregory in the second half to cap off the scoring for the Chargers.
“Initially when I found out we weren’t going to play (last week against Desoto Central), I was a little worried, but the way we responded on the practice field, I was really pleased with that week and proud of our players of the way they handled it,” Cutcliffe said about not playing after Desoto Central had to forfeit due to COVID-19 cases. “I didn’t expect to see us take a step back because I just seen us really prepare well in the practice field.”
The two Oxford quarterbacks combined to go 15-for-23 passing for 241 yards and four scores. Wortham had seven receptions for 139 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Webb also added three receptions for 75 yards. Howell had 11 carries for 41 yards and two scores. Gregory added six carries for 79 yards and a score. Tracy Harris in mop up duty had 13 carries for 33 yards.
Oliver for Horn Lake was 9-for-23 for 279 yards and two scores, but was just 5-for-15 for 51 yards in the first half. Martavis Blackmon led the Eagles on the ground with four carries for 57 yards and a score. LaVante Hodges had eight carries for 34 yards as the leading back.
“What we just talked about after the game was our job is to continue improving,” Cutcliffe said to his players. “We want this to be the worst game we played the rest of the season. That’s got to be your mindset. Finding ways to stay hungry and keep getting better as a football team.”
Oxford stays at home next week as the host Olive Branch. A win next week clinches a playoff berth. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.