E.A. Sports Today

Unbeaten showdown

Third-ranked Oxford uses stifling defense and grind-it-out offense to sidestep No. 9 Benjamin Russell and remain unbeaten

By East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDER CITY – A game can turn on a dime and it took the Oxford defense and a grind-it-out ball-control offense to keep it from happening Friday as the Yellow Jackets took a 20-7 victory from Benjamin Russell.

The Wildcats were being dominated on both sides of the ball in front of stunned silence from the Homecoming crowd when midway through the third quarter BRHS quarterback Landon Cotney dumped a pass over the middle that receiver Xzavia Stokes caught and broke for a 68-yard run. All of a sudden it was a one-touchdown game and the crowd was alive.

But Oxford linebacker Prentice Fomby answered the call after a long Jackets drive chewed up some clock, but bogged down deep in Wildcat territory due to penalties. Fomby picked off a Cotney screen pass and returned it 11 yards for the insurance touchdown the Jackets needed.

“I saw the fullback come out of the backfield and I just broke on the ball,” said Fomby, who keeps making big plays for the Jackets defense that is ranked No. 1 in Class 6A in points allowed.

“That play broke their backs,” said Oxford head coach Ryan Herring. ”It ended the game for all practical purposes.”

It was the 20th meeting all-time between third-ranked Oxford (5-0) and No. 9 Benjamin Russell (4-0) and the game had a playoff feel to it as the two unbeaten 6A powers clashed at the Charles E. Bailey Sportsplex before a packed crowd. The series is now tied at 10-10.

The Wildcats had a 12-yard run on the second play of the game, but that was the only play their fans had to cheer about in the first half. Oxford’s defense held the high powered Wildcat offense to just seven more yards on 15 plays and no more first downs the rest of the half.

That defense got the Jackets going on the second Wildcats possession as Richard Cantrell blocked a punt and William Muncher returned it 20 yards to the Benjamin Russell 44. A 19-yard touchdown run by quarterback Abe Peoples moments later was nullified by a holding penalty and the Jackets had to punt.

The next Jacket possession resulted in a nine-play, 40-yard scoring drive capped by a 4 yard run by Tyetus Smith-Lindsey. The extra point hit the upright, but Oxford led 6-0 with 9:32 left in the half.

The next possession was an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive. Peoples got the score on a quarterback sneak from 2 yards out and the extra point was true leaving the Jackets with a 13-0 halftime lead.

Lindsey-Smith grinded out 169 yards on 33 carries, giving him 899 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on the season.

“He probably would have had more, but he was a little banged up coming into tonight,” said Herring.

Peoples got banged up on a drive late in the third quarter and sat out the fourth quarter. Freshman Trey Higgins came on and kept the offense going without any problems.

“Our offense had some big drives, but we kept getting a lot of penalties, which you expect down here and you just have to overcome them,” said Herring.

The Jackets had the ball for 59 plays in the game to the BRHS’ 38. The Wildcats could only generate 31 yards on 31 rushes against the No. 1-ranked Oxford defense. The Jackets have only given up 41 points this year.

These two teams were region foes for two years in 2014 and 2015, but the Wildcats are in Region 4 now and in the southern half of the state playoff bracket. Oxford is in the northern half of the bracket.

[table id=69 /]

Oxford 0 13 0 7 — 20
Benjamin Russell 0 0 7 0 — 7

O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 4 run (kick failed), 9:32 2Q
O – Abe Peoples 2 run (Zane Barbao kick), 2:32 2Q
BR – Xzavia Stowes 68 pass from Landon Cotney (Dylan Moncus kick)
O – Prentice Fomby 11 interception return (Zane Barbao kick)

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