E.A. Sports Today

Close encounter

Oxford takes short trip to Munford, makes short work of Lions in 28-0 season-opening shutout

Oxford’s Zay Britt (17) runs interference for quarterback Trey Higgins. Britt transferred from Munford over the summer, returned to his old school Friday night and scored the game’s first touchdown. (All photos by B.J. Franklin)

To view an East Alabama Sports Today photo gallery from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

MUNFORD – In a game that carried the buildup of a playoff game, fourth-ranked 6A Oxford pulled out a 28-0 victory over a game 5A Munford team Friday night.

The two storied football programs located just a few miles apart on Highway 21 met for only the third time in history and both showed they will be a force in their respective classifications this year.

The crowd got there early and the available seats were filled by an hour before kickoff. They were lined five- and six-deep around the chain-link fence that guarded the field.

“I am proud of the way our kids played,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. “A win is a win. We’ve got some things to clean up, but Munford is a very good football team. They have got some kids that can play.”

The Yellow Jackets relied on a defense that was the top scoring defense in any classification a year ago continuing its brilliance with a shutout win that held Munford to just 50 total yards in the game. The Jackets posted four shutouts a year ago and held 10 of their 13 opponents to seven points or fewer.

The Lions had minus-34 yards rushing on 33 attempts and were negative in total yards until their last drive of the game that featured a 43-yard pass completion.

That defense came up with three stops when the Oxford offense had two interceptions and a bad snap on a punt set Munford up deep in Oxford territory. Three times Munford was stopped on downs without getting a first down.

The Lions fumbled on their first possession leading to an early Oxford score and fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter.

That first score came from a familiar face to Munford fans. Zay Britt transferred to Oxford over the summer with some acrimony, but was ruled eligible to play for the Jackets and made his presence felt early with a 6-yard touchdown catch less than four minutes into the season.

The Jackets added two second-half touchdowns to win their 22nd consecutive regular season contest (going back to the 2015 regular-season finale).

The strong defense enabled the Oxford offense to bring along four sophomores into the lineup. Senior all-state running back Tyetus Smith-Lindsey was shut down effectively in the first half, but got 90 of his 100 yards rushing in the second half.

“We struggled at times against a good team, but our line and receivers just did a great job of blocking out there,” Smith-Lindsey said. “We have a long way to go, but we will get back to work on Sunday and do what we can to get better.”

That offensive line started two sophomores in Jalen Bradford and Brandon Kirksey and is anchored by major college prospect Clay Webb is solid at guard. The line struggled early in the game against a tough Munford defense, taking seven plays to get it in from the 7 early in the game, but got better as the game went on.

Quarterback Trey Higgins had three picks but completed 13 of 18 other passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 73 yards on just eight carries.

He ran the ball a lot on keepers and had a big game running the football, bringing a dimension to the offense the Jackets did not have a year ago. He stared down his receivers on a couple of interceptions, but was especially sharp in the second half and showed he could throw the ball deep with his strong arm.

“He made some mistakes, but he did some very good things also; he is just a sophomore,” Herring said.

The Yellow Jackets found a wide receiver in Roc Taylor. The 6-4, 230-pounder who is a force on the basketball floor found some speed during the offseason and caught eight passes for 149 yards and one touchdown in the game.

Midway through the third quarter, the Jackets were up 14-0 and facing a second-and-19 when Higgins hit Taylor with a short pass that he turned it into a 21-yard gain and a Jacket first down. The Jackets would drive it on for a touchdown and go up 21-0.

Oxford had no answer for Lions junior Justin Strunk. He had two interceptions and wreaked other havoc on defense and gained some 30 yards rushing.

NOTES: This was the Jackets’ first trip ever to Munford. The teams met twice before in Oxford (1972, 1974). They are scheduled to play at Lamar Field next year. … The Jackets’ 22-game regular-season winning streak is their longest in school history. Fyffe is the current state leader with 28 in a row. … Herring needs 13 wins to reach 100 career wins. He is 41-18 since coming to Oxford, matching his predecessor, John Grass (41-17), in the win column. … The Jackets used two kickers in the game, senior Misael Reyes and junior Andrew Warhurst. Reyes hit three PATs and Warhurst one. Warhurst appeared to have the stronger leg; in warm-ups as he was hitting from 40 yards out. … Next week the Jackets travel to 7A Gadsden City. Over the years the lights have gone out on several occasions in a crucial part of the game and there always seems to be unusual plays that become game changers for both teams. The Titans opened Thursday night with a 32-23 loss to Etowah. Oxford is 6-7 all-time against the Titans (2-5 in Gadsden) and has won the last two.

Oxford 28, Munford 0
Category Oxf Mun

First Downs 20 5
Rushes-yds 35-195 33-(-34)
Passes 13-21-3 5-14-1
Passing yds 180 84
Fumbles lost 0 1
Punts-avg 1-26.0 5-30.6
Penalties-yds 5-55 10-71

Scoring summary
Oxford 14 0 7 7 – 28
Munford 0 0 0 0 – 0

O – Zay Britt 6 pass from Trey Higgins (Misael Reyes kick), 8:32 1Q
O – Trey Higgins 3 run (Misael Reyes kick), 0:24 1Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 1 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 4:07 3Q
O – Roc Taylor 45 pass from Trey Higgins (Misael Reyes kick), 3:12 4Q

Oxford linebacker Kendall McCallum (23), an LSU commitment, chases down Munford’s Jaisiam Tuck (1) with Cross Davis in hot pursuit.

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