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Oxford blanks Minor in spring game, finds new leaders on defense, new weapons on offense

Fullback Gabe Webb (33) looks to make a block after Tyetus Smith-Lindsey (1) takes a handoff from Abe Peoples. On the cover, Gabe and Abe take a breather in the first quarter.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Ryan Herring’s main interest in watching Oxford’s spring football game against Minor Thursday night was seeing how his team, particularly his defense, could get along with the leader who was K.J. Britt.

He may have found a new weapon for his offense along the way.

Gabe Webb transferred in from Moody during the offseason and proved an effective option for moving the chains in the Yellow Jackets’ 20-0 victory at Jacksonville State.

Webb, no relation to major-college line prospect Clay Webb, provided the Jackets with some tough running. He rushed for 18 yards on three carries, moving the chains twice on third-and-short direct snaps, and rumbled 19 yards with a reception.

“He reminds us of the guy from Tampa Bay, (Mike) Alstott,” Herring said. “We call him ‘Alstott,’ and we call him ‘Baby Hulk;’ he’s about as muscular as a kid as you can be.

“We really don’t even know him that well. He moved here from Moody. I know he played fullback there, so we know he probably was tough and we’ve just kind of sprinkled him in, really more at H-back type stuff, and he looks like he’s going to fit in well.”

Webb’s three biggest plays came on Oxford’s second touchdown drives. He went for 11 yards on his first third-and-1 direct snap on the first series and then for six more on third-and-1 on the next. Then he caught his pass to get the Jackets into the red zone, where Tyetus Smith-Lindsey finished it off for his second touchdown of the game.

“I loved it; it was good,” Webb said. “It’s a huge difference because I went from 5A to 6A and when I got here I learned how to step up my competition. I stepped it up and they accepted me.”

The Yellow Jackets had some flashy rushing as well. Smith-Lindsey rushed for 59 yards on eight carries and scored the Jackets’ first two touchdowns on runs of 22 and 1 yards. Richard Cantrell rushed for rushed for 88 yards on five carries, highlighted by a pinball-like 65-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Abe Peoples rushed for 38 yards on six carries and completed 4 of 9 passes for 44 yards.

Cantrell’s touchdown run was as exciting as it gets. He bounced off at least five would-be tacklers before getting free, and once he got outside, he was gone.

“I wasn’t getting enough action so when I got that ball I was trying to make a play out of it,” he said. “Every time I cut I saw somebody else so I had to cut again.”

“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Herring said. “He worked harder than anybody in our program in the offseason. When the season ended to right now nobody worked harder in the weight room than him – nobody. Everybody worked hard, but nobody pound-for-pound pushed the weight around like him. So, it was just good to see him have a great night because he had worked to have that kind of night.”

What Herring really wanted to see was the way his defense could work without Britt, who’s now at Auburn but was on the sideline Thursday providing encouragement to his former teammates. The unit responded by keeping Minor out of the end zone and holding it to 40 yards while the varsities played.

Minor had only two plays of more than two yards in the varsity segment and linebacker Denico Tanner recorded an 11-yard sack when the Tigers went for it on fourth down from their 42.

“I thought we did all right not to have him because we got so used to having him,” Herring said. “But I thought we got lined up on defense and I thought we ran and hit and that’s really all I wanted to see.

“I wasn’t looking for anything perfect. It wasn’t a night to let’s see how good can we do, it was a night to see can we line up and can we run and hit. That’s all I wanted to see and we did.”

NOTES: Herring confirmed the Yellow Jackets have found Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa to replace Talladega as their season opener next fall. Talladega made a nice match when Herring’s brother Robert coached the Tigers, but when he left at the end of the season the game didn’t make much sense for the Jackets.

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