E.A. Sports Today

The Ty that binds

Senior quarterback holds Oxford’s offense together when it has to get it done

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Three years ago against the Carrollton Trojans a young Ty Webber shook off several first-half interceptions to throw a pair of second-half touchdowns and lead an Oxford comeback in a 21-17 upset. Last week, senior quarterback Ty Webber led his team the length of the field with clutch runs and passes to pull out a huge 25-19 playoff win over the Dothan Tigers.

A lot of time has passed between those two games, but there is a common thread: Webber has been there to hold it all together when his team needed him most.

The three-year starter has seen a lot of change over his four years as a Yellow Jackets’ quarterback. He has lined up against some of the best defenses in the state week after week and has done whatever it took to help win football games with the same just-doing-my-job approach.

He faces another test Friday when the Jackets (6-5) host undefeated No. 6 McAdory (11-0) at Lamar Field in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.

“I feel like I’m the leader of the team,” Webber said Thursday. “No matter where they put other athletes on the field I’m always going to be the quarterback and they’re always going to need me to be the person who can manage the game from an offensive standpoint.

“No matter what the score is or how the game’s turning out, they’re going to need me to lead the offense and put the ball in the end zone every time we get the ball. That’s always what I try to do the best, just lead them and make sure we’re going in the right direction. When they need me the most I’m going to make sure I perform.”

The evidence is everywhere this year. There was an overtime drive to beat Chilton County in miserable weather. There was the late drive that put the Jackets in position to come back against Valley that ended with an incomplete halfback pass by Tre Gamble from the 3. Then there was last week’s drive to beat Dothan with 30 seconds left in the game.

“That’s how you measure a good quarterback,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. “In the NFL, that’s how you measure the whole league.

“The couple times I’ve talked to (NFL coaches) they tell me it’s a quarterback league; whose quarterback is hot on Sunday, that’s who usually wins. That’s why they protect him so much — without that player they don’t have a league; it’s not even fun to watch and you’re not going to win.

“We’re in the second round right now because of his play. It’s that simple.”

This season the Jackets have played five of the top seven defenses in the state and with an offense that had to re-invent itself. In the first half of the season it was throw the ball, spread things out and get the ball to Gamble; Webber threw the ball 131 times and had 80 completions.

However, defenses began to collapse on Gamble and the Oxford coaching staff had to find a way to get the ball to their Big Man; they moved Gamble to tailback. This forced Webber to ramp up his personal running game as a complement.

He has carried the ball 36 times in the last three games and passed only 40. Last week against Dothan he had 107 yards rushing on 18 attempts.

“We went into the season knowing he had to run the ball some,” Herring said. “He has nursed a bad ankle for weeks and weeks. I remember the first two or three weeks he had it and it kept getting reinjured. I’ve seen kids in the past who left the game and didn’t come back; he toughed it out.”

This new look of power football has keyed a 4-2 surge against a schedule that has featured nine teams ranked in the Top 10 at one point in their respective classes, including three straight wins in win-or-go-home elimination type games. Five of those teams won last week in the first round of the playoffs.

“We were on the sideline last week and I was sitting there with all the offensive guys telling them depending on how we play this last drive will determine if we keep playing or not,” Webber said. “I told them we’re going to have to go out there and do what we know we can do, what we’ve been doing all year, just take the ball down and score.”

And that’s what they did. With Webber at the controls, the Jackets drove 70 yards in 13 yards with the quarterback covering the final one. Webber then threw a two-point conversion pass to Jacob Cook.

McAdory adds to the challenge this week. The Leopards have the No. 2 defense in the state, led by all-state linebacker Tavarius Hutchinson, who blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in the last two minutes of last week’s 21-20 win at Blount.

Once again, Oxford hopes its strength of schedule — opponents are a combined 73-41 — will enable them to pull off the upset.

“Hopefully,” Webber said, “we’ve got four more of those.”

Be sure to vote for this year’s Calhoun County Player of the Year.

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