E.A. Sports Today

Jackets roll past Titans

Oxford’s defense helps moves things along when offense starts slow; Jackets take down Gadsden City

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

GADSDEN – On nights when the offense may have a little trouble getting its motor going, it’s always good to know there’s a backup plan.

“The defense has my back,” Oxford quarterback Trey Higgins says. “When we make mistakes we know they are going to take care of things.”

The Yellow Jackets’ offense made some early mistakes Friday in their 35-6 win over Gadsden City, but their defense made sure Gadsden City didn’t hurt them by blocking a field goal, getting an interception and making a fourth-down stop to keep the Titans from capitalizing.

That defense kept Gadsden City out of the end zone until the last play of the game. It was the Jackets’ 23rd straight regular-season victory.

“That is as good a defensive football team I have ever faced,” Titans coach James Sessions said. “They are so good in the block and then there is (Prentice) Fomby and (LSU commitment Kendall) McCallum that you cannot block. If can’t block those two, you cannot get into your offense.”

The defense was suffocating in the first half, holding the Titans to 38 yards on 23 plays – seven possessions – just two first downs and only five plays over three yards. Fomby blocked a field goal after Oxford offensive mistakes gave the Titans the ball at the Oxford 25.

Oxford promptly took the ball 55 yards on 10 plays, opening the scoring on Tyetus Smith-Lindsey getting the score on a 4 yard run up the middle. Trey Higgins rushed for 35 yards on the drive as Oxford unleashed an option offense for the first time in a long while. The Titans were keying on Lindsey and Higgins made them pay.

The Yellow Jacket defense forced a 6-yard Titan punt late in the second quarter. Higgins then found a wide-open Rock Taylor in the end zone for an easy touchdown on the very next play.

The Jackets scored 3 more times in the second half and held a 35-0 lead before the Titans put together a furious 75 yard drive against Oxford’s second unit defense.

“We made some little mistakes, but I was proud of our effort. We started to find our offensive identity in the second half,” said Oxford head coach Ryan Herring said.

Oxford 35, Gadsden City 6
Team stats Oxf GC

First Downs 19 7
Rushes-yds 42-228 36-134
Passes 9-19-1 7-10-1
Passing yds 94 36
Fumbles lost 0 1
Punts-avg 4-26.0 9-33.6
Penalties-yds 9-80 8-55

Scoring summary
Oxford 7 7 7 14 – 35
Gadsden City 0 0 0 6 – 6

O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 4 run (Misael Reyes kick), 6:20 1Q
O – Rock Taylor 27 pass from Trey Higgins (Misael Reyes kick), 0:46 2Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 21 run (Misael Reyes kick), 8:45 3Q
O – Jordan Booker 16 run (Misael Reyes kick), 7:24 4Q
O – Xyon Satcher 49 fumble return (Misael Reyes kick), 2:30 4Q
GC – Jamian Jones 3 run (no PAT), 0:00 4Q


GAME CHANGER: Sophomore Rock Taylor was being hounded all night long, but with 46 seconds to go in the first half he somehow slipped behind the coverage and caught a wide open touchdown pass. The catch put the Jackets up 14-0 at the half. After Taylor’s big game last week the Titans were geared up to stop him. He caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Zay Britt caught three passes for 31 yards.

OXFORD OFFENSIVE LINE: The line made great strides this week and really opened up some gaping holes in the second half as they wore down the Titans. The Jackets piled up 230 yards on the ground

OXFORD BACKS: You can count on Tyetus Smith-Lindsey for his usual 100 yards and he got 117 on 15 carries. He left the game in the third quarter with an injury after making a tackle on 50-yard interception return by the Titans. “I am just fine and will be ready to go next week,” he said.

Jonovan Carlisle took over after Smith-Lindsey went down and pounded out 55 yards on 10 carries. Jordan booker added a 16-yard TD run.

Higgins was 9-19-1 passing and spread the field with several long passes down the field. “We have a lot of weapons,” said Higgins.” We’ve just got go back to work and get better this week and I have to be able use them better.”

OXFORD DEFENSIVE LINE: Kristin Booth had two sacks and five tackles as the unit held the Titans to just 28 yards on 26 carries before the second unit came on late in the fourth quarter. For the year the Oxford defense has allowed six yards rushing on 58 attempts in two games.

OXFORD LINEBACKERS: Kendall McCallum had six tackles and Prentice Fomby blocked a field goal attempt as the first unit did not allow a touchdown. “We just try to pursue the football. We showed up and got the job done tonight,” said McCallum.

OXFORD SECONDARY: The secondary allowed only 36 passing yards. Freshman Trequon Fegans picked off a pass in the end zone to shut down a Gadsden City scoring attempt after a Titans interception gave them the ball at the Oxford 15 in the third quarter.

Xyon Satcher scored on a 49-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter. He ripped the ball out of a Titan running back’s hands and sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown. “I just got the ball out of his hands and took off. I had to do some high stepping as I did not want to get caught,” he said.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Jackets used two kickers again, senior Misael Reyes (placements) and junior Andrew Warhurst (kickoffs). There was another fumbled punt attempt that gave the Titans some great field position. Punter Zay Britt has struggled only kicking one punt over 30 yards, but he got off a 31-yarder on his last kick.

There were two kick-offs out-of-bounds and a couple of almost big kick-off returns by the Titans. One bright spot was the great coverage of senior Wallace Groce, who made three tackles on the kick-off coverage. ”I just try to get down there fast and try to be on the ball,” he said.

NEXT WEEK: The Jackets finally get home for old rival and region foe Pell City. The Jackets have owned the series of late winning 11 of the last 12 meetings, the last five in a row and six straight at home. They lead the all-time 33-18-1 and have outscored the Panthers 69-3 the last two years.

Pell City is the fourth most common opponent of Oxford’s. The Jackets have played Anniston 78 times, Alexandria 61 times and Jacksonville 60 times. This Oxford-Pell City game has been played in the latter part of the season 38 times and only 14 times in September.

EXTRA POINTS: It was the first home game for the Titans on their brand new turf that was put in during the off-season … What a difference a week makes as far as crowds go. Last week at the smaller Munford Stadium both sides were filled up by 5:30. At Titan Stadium the crowd did not start arriving until around 6:30 or so … The weather was blistering hot. Several years back when John Grass was the coach, the Yellow Jackets warmed up nearby and not on the field, did not show up until about 10 minutes ahead of time and created a mild stir.

THE LAST WORD: After the game Herring was on the field waiting for a television interview. He had the headphones on for about 10 minutes before speaking. “I hope they have not left me,” he told his security guard. “Well, no they can’t. I have the keys.”

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