E.A. Sports Today

Jackets clear hurdle

Oxford extends its undefeated season by handling Hueytown in opening round of Class 6A playoffs

Oxford’s Tyetus Smith-Lindsey leaves the Hueytown defense in his wake as he breaks off a 58-yard run to open the scoring. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — For almost a year any story about Oxford football has said, “10-0 last year, but lost in the first round in the play-offs.” It had nothing to do with this football team, but still it lingered.

This year, the Yellow Jackets were 10-0 in the regular season – and with a record-setting defense — but this team got the post-season monkey off their back with a 30-7 pasting of a tough Hueytown team in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Thursday night at Lamar Field.

They advance to play the winner of Friday’s Gardendale-Muscle Shoals game next week in Oxford. Muscle Shoals was the team that ended the Jackets’ run in the first round of the playoffs last year.

It’s the first time they’ve been 11-0 since their undefeated 1993 state championship season (14-0).

To see a full photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

“We were pretty tired of hearing that over and over,” Jackets coach Ryan Herring said. “I am happy for the kids as they have worked their tails off this year to get back to the playoffs. Hueytown came in with a good plan and they made some good plays, but in the end they only got seven points on the board.”

And that came in the second quarter after the second-ranked Jackets opened a 10-0 lead.

The Jackets struck first — for the 10th time this year — when Tyetus Smith-Lindsey burst 58 yards against a Golden Gopher defense that was stacking the box trying to stop him. Zane Barbao’s 27-yard field goal capped a 59-yard drive on Oxford’s next possession.

Hueytown got things going in the second quarter and was giving the Oxford defense fits running the ball up the middle out of a spread offense. Golden Gophers quarterback Jaden Steele and running back Roydell Williams pounded the Jackets defense for 95 first-half rushing yards and Williams scored their touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.

Hueytown drove to the Oxford 22 on its next drive, but was stopped on downs when linebacker Kendall McCallum tackled Steele on fourth-and-short before he got the yard to gain.

Oxford responded with a 78-yard drive in the final two minutes of the half, scoring on a 6-yard run by fullback Gabe Webb with 15 seconds left. Webb set up the score with a huge 29-yard third-down run.

“That was huge to get back to a 10-point lead at the half,” Herring said. “It takes a lot of air out of you when that happens.”

Webb, a transfer from Moody who was the St Clair County player of the year the last two seasons before moving to live with his dad this year in Oxford, is used to carrying the ball as he gained close to 3,000 yards the last two years. He scored two touchdowns Thursday night.

“The adrenaline was pumping and I just wanted to get the ball down there and score,” Webb said.

“He is a selfless player, a team player, a hard worker,” Herring said. “A blue-collar type guy and a huge weapon for us that not many people know about.”

Oxford’s defense took control in the third quarter stopping the Golden Gophers and fourth and a foot at midfield. Quarterback Abe Peoples then connected on a 25-yard scoring pass to Brody Syer to give the Jackets a 16-point lead. It was the second catch of the year for linebacker Syer, who was the starting quarterback 2 years ago.

McCallum then went on a tear defensively, making five straight tackles that just took the life out of the Golden Gophers as the third quarter ended. McCallum, who had been out the last three games, returned from injury and was an absolute beast on defense from his middle linebacker spot.

“He was something out there and had three bone-crushing tackles,” said Herring.

“It felt good to be back out there,” McCallum said. “The defensive line was doing a great job which helped me be able to get to people. I felt all right out there.”

Smith-Lindsey danced down the sidelines on a 37-yard run early in the fourth quarter and that gave Webb another chance to score and he capitalized with a punishing 3-yard run. Smith-Lindsey finished with 191 yards rushing on 24 carries and now has 1,594 yards and 22 touchdowns for the season.

“They completely changed their defense for us,” Herring said. “They lined up in a 3-4 and our offensive line had to make adjustments on the fly as we were not prepared for that. But that is what playoff football is all about. People are good and they know what you do and we know what they do and it is all about making the right adjustments.”

[table id=92 /]

Hueytown 0 7 0 0 — 7
Oxford 10 7 6 7 — 30

O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 58 run (Zane Barbao kick), 7:32 1Q
O – Zane Barbao 27 FG, 2:21 1Q
H – Roydell Williams 1 run (Bailey Hagood kick), 9:34 2Q
O – Gabe Webb 6 run (Zane Barbao kick), 0:15 2Q
O – Brody Syer 25 pass from Abe Peoples (PAT failed), 3:23 3Q
O – Gabe Webb 3 run (Zane Barbao kick), 9:59 4Q

Oxford middle linebacker Kendall McCallum (23) wraps up Hueytown’s Jaden Steele behind the line of scrimmage on fourth down to deny him a first down. McCallum returned the lineup after a three-week absence Thursday and played like a man looking to make up for lost time. He made five straight tackles late in the third quarter.

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