Oxford (7-0, 5-0) @ Hernando (5-3, 4-1)
Oxford is coming off a convincing 39-0 victory over Olive Branch while Hernando is coming off its first loss in division play losing to Horn Lake 16-14 on the road. Being on the road is something the Hernando Tigers has gotten used to this season similar to how Lafayette has gone through their season, though not when they started the season.
This will be Hernando’s first game at home since losing to South Panola 14-13 way back on September 4, nearly two months ago. While for a few of their road games they haven’t gone far (to Center Hill, Lewisburg, and Horn Lake), it is still nice that they finally get to play a home game.
This is in large part because of two forfeit wins they had against Desoto Central and Southaven were supposed to be played at home. You just have to feel bad for the fans and especially those that generate their budget for the band through the concession stands because that is two home games lost.
Offensively, Hernando is dangerous with junior quarterback Zach Wilcke as he has led his team to average 29.5 points per game in the six games they’ve been able to play. The two 12-0 forfeit wins is not counted towards their points per game. Outside of just straight knowing who the quarterback is, Hernando like many other teams Oxford has faced this season has not put up any stats of their quarterback or their other players.
Over Oxford’s last three first halves, the Chargers have outscored opponents 93-0. It is looking more and more like Oxford’s defense has regained its form from last season. This will be their biggest test since the Southaven game to begin division play as they will be facing a quarterback that can throw the ball more at will than any other quarterback has in the division.
Oxford’s offense has been trucking along as well as they have helped this team score at least 31 points in every game, but what has made this team dangerous over the last few years is the Chargers have been able to score not just on offense, but scoring on pick-sixes and on special teams and create scoring opportunities through field goals whenever the offense has been stuck in neutral during the game.
Against South Panola and Horn Lake for Hernando, their offense has been stopped – and Horn Lake was slaughtered defensively against Oxford, so Oxford knows there’s a formula there to stop Hernando’s offense, it is just a matter of implementing it.
An Oxford win coupled with a Horn Lake win over Tupelo will clinch the division title for the Chargers tonight.
Lafayette (6-2, 4-1) vs. Columbus (1-7, 1-4)
So far, Lafayette has taken care of their business in their last two games against the bottom of the division, defeating Saltillo 20-0 and defeating New Hope last week 57-20. Columbus has been struggling this year, but does have a lone win over New Hope 23-7 earlier this season. The Falcons were beaten by an angry West Point team 47-14 last week to snap the Green Wave’s two-game losing streak.
Columbus has struggled really since Kylin Hill graduated and went down the road to play for Mississippi State. Columbus averages a hair under 10 points per game on offense, which obviously isn’t great, but they have stayed in one-score games in four of their contests thanks to their defense which is one of the better one’s in Class 5A. The Falcons allow 19.4 points per game which was ballooned after giving up 47 to West Point last week, but still a respectable number given that the offense has hardly helped them out at all. In truth, it is because of the Falcon defense they are just two scores away from being 3-2 in the division and fighting for a playoff spot.
Their quarterback Ethan Conner does have respectable passing numbers this season going 94-for-145 for 1,179 yards, but just three touchdowns against four interceptions. That is still good for 65 percent of their passes completed which is higher than most other teams. It does though appear a lot of those passes are on the short end and not throwing the ball down the field. Conner is the person who the offense runs through as he leads the team rushing with 765 yards. They really don’t have a complement running back so in that nature they are a one-dimensional offense as it is either the quarterback that will run or throw the ball, but the ball doesn’t go through anyone else.
Lafayette’s defense should be able to clamp down on this offense for Columbus as they have barely been able to score this season. For Columbus to have any chance, they will have to slow down a more diverse offense in Tyrus Williams, Trikyus Woodall, and Jayden Reed that threw up 57 points against what was a solid New Hope defense and have not failed to score at least two touchdowns in each game this season.