E.A. Sports Today

Pats feel Jackets’ sting

Oxford uses strong defense to stun and shut out second-ranked Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in season opener

Oxford’s Tyetus Smith-Lindsey stretches his body across the goal line for a third-quarter touchdown Friday night. On the cover, the Yellow Jackets’ defense wrap up Hillcrest back Nassir Boyd (21). (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Defense wins state championships, they say. If that is true, then Oxford head coach Ryan Herring may be looking at a big season this year.

The Yellow Jackets’ defense played an almost perfect game against a highly regarded opponent Friday night as they destroyed No. 2 Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 21-0.

The defense had no penalties and allowed only one first down and one Hillcrest drive over three plays – and that one they held on fourth down. The vaunted Hillcrest rushing attack managed only 12 yards on 18 carries and had only three runs 2 yards.

The Patriots scored a school-record 506 points last season. They hadn’t been shut out in a regular-season game since losing to Spain Park 24-0 in the final regular-season game of the 2007 season.

“We knew coming in that our defense was going to be our strength,” Herring said. “This is the fastest overall defense we have had in my five years here. It starts up front as we were able to get all kinds of pressure with our three-man line.”

The setting was fit for a third- or fourth-round playoff game. The Patriots came in ranked second in Class 6A and Oxford was seventh. The crowd lined the fences around Lamar Field and they watched a magnificent defensive first half by the Yellow Jacket that completely shut down the highly touted offense of the Patriots.

Hillcrest gained just 31 total yards in the first half and one first down. The first down and 11 yards came on the last play of the half when Oxford was in a prevent defense.
The Patriots had their chances early when two short punts gave them the ball at the Oxford 26 and 31. A swarming Yellow Jacket defense led by six first-half tackles by defensive end William Muncher was all over the Patriot offense pushing them backwards and not even allowing a field goal attempt.

“I was hoping to just hold them to three points after our short punts gave them great field position,” said Herring, “and we got out of there with no points allowed thanks to the defense really bowing up their necks.”

After holding the Patriots on downs, the Oxford offense got untracked when they drove 72 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a Tyetus Smith –Lindsey 1 yard run on fourth down. The drive was highlighted by a 45-yard bomb from Abe Peoples to Antwon Feagans.

”I thought that pass play was the turning point in the game,” said Herring. ”It was like we could breathe again and after that point we were able to move the ball on them.”

Offensive coordinator Michael Darden sports his new look in the locker room after the Oxford players shaved his head following their win over Hillcrest. (Photo by Brant Locklier)

Late in the half, in a hurry-up offense, Peoples led the Jackets 55 yards in eight plays to get a touchdown on a scrambling bullet pass over the middle to Dave Russell with just seven seconds to go in the half.

Oxford had 137 yards of offense in the half as they enjoyed a 14-0 halftime lead.

“That was a great play by Abe, being able to get out of a jam and sticking it in the end zone,” Herring said.

Asante Ferrell set up Oxford’s third-quarter score with an interception. Ferrell‘s 42-yard return was nullified by a block in the back penalty, but the Jackets took it 57 yards in 11 plays to go on top 21-0 when Smith-Lindsey broke several tackles and squirted into the end zone from 8 yards out.

Fullback Gabriel Webb picked up 14 yards on two carries on the drive. Smith-Lindsey grinded out 100 yards on 25 carries. Richard Cantrell picked up 50 yards on 11 rushes and Webb gained 48 yards on three carries.

“It is always good to win that first one,” Herring said. “The kids have worked so hard all summer and they are ready to hit someone other than themselves. It is just a good feeling to get it under our belt.”

One happy casualty of the victory was offensive coordinator Michael Darden. He had his head shaved by happy players after the game and is sporting a new look heading into next week’s home game against Gadsden City.

[table id=51 /]

Hillcrest (0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Oxford (1-0) 0 14 7 0 — 21

O — Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 1 run (Curtis Pritchett kick) 6:25 2Q
O – Dave Russell 15 pass from Abe Peoples (Curtis Pritchett kick), 0:07 2Q
O — Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 8 run (Curtis Pritchett kick), 3:46 3Q

Oxford fullback Gabe Webb (33) looks for running room. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of B.J. Franklin photos from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and open the football file.

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