E.A. Sports Today

Jackets win big

Oxford’s offense has a big night in opening round of 6A playoffs, host Decatur in Round 2

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

HAZEL GREEN – The Oxford Yellow Jackets pretty much had their way with the opposition Friday night as they put forth a punishing 42-14 victory over Hazel Green in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs at Bob Grimwood Stadium.

The Jackets would only stop themselves on the night as they had no punts, two fumbles, two interceptions and 173 yards in penalties. However, on the plus side of the ledger they had 562 yards rushing, 614 yards of total offense and scored every time the ball except for the mistakes.

Senior all-state running back Tyetus Smith-Lindsey talked last week of being a leader in the playoffs and he took off with his biggest game of the year. He piled up 270 yards rushing on 26 carries and two touchdowns.

“My line was opening up humongous holes and I had a couple of cutbacks that got me some big yards,” Smith-Lindsey said.

Sophomore quarterback Trey Higgins gained 176 yards on nine carries and had two touchdown runs of 69 and 29 yards called back due to penalties. It was his best game of the year.

“I have never had that many yards in a game, but we felt like with the rain and wet field that running the ball was going to be what we had to do tonight and we did,” Higgins said.

Junior fullback Jonovan Carlisle had 99 yards on just four carries, one a 94-yard touchdown run right up the middle.

“Jonovan did a great job of blocking,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. “He was in on a lot of violent collisions and was opening holes along with our offensive line. It was just good old fashioned football out there tonight.”

The game marked a milestone of sorts for Herring as well. Herring won his 49th game at Oxford in his sixth year, tying his dad, Robert, for the most wins in the first year of any Oxford head coach. Ironically, son and father are now 49-20 in their first six years with the Jackets. Bill Burgess is third on that list at 42-19-4.

The win also moved Herring into a tie with Gil Adams for fourth on the school’s all-time win list.

Three long first-half drives gave the Jackets a 21-0 halftime lead and they took the second half kick-off for a score on a 66-yard run by Smith-Lindsey.

It was lengthy game plagued by 41 penalties. Hazel Green was penalized 25 times for 163 yards. There were 13 penalties in the first quarter, eight on Hazel Green.

The Jackets will host Decatur Friday in the second round.

Oxford 42, Hazel Green 14
Team stats Oxf HG

First downs 7 13
Rushes-yds 44-562 30-62
Passes 5-10-2 11-29-0
Passing yds 52 63
Fumbles lost 2 0
Punts-avg 0-0 6-41-0
Penalties-yds 16-173 25-163

Scoring summary
Oxford 14 7 7 14 – 42
Hazel Green 0 0 8 6 – 14

O – Trey Higgins 41 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 7:12 1Q
O – Jonovan Carlisle 94 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 4:58 1Q
O – Zay Britt 20 pass from Trey Higgins (Andrew Warhurst kick), 1:12 2Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 66 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 9:14 3rdQtr
H – Jaylen Atkinson 34 run (Amir McKinstry run), 6:46 3Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 16 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 11:41 4Q
H – Jamal Osborne 6 pass from Chase Starling (kick fails), 4:59 4Q
O – Trey Higgins 53 run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 3:22 4Q

Notes from the Huddle

GAME CHANGER: Oxford’s Zay Britt somehow managed to grab a 20-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for a huge touchdown that gave Oxford a 21-0 halftime lead. It was a fourth-and-goal for the Yellow Jackets. Higgins heaved the ball for the corner of end zone. Britt went parallel to the ground, caught the ball, and managed to get a toe down. It gave Oxford the momentum it needed going into the half.

ON THE OFFENSE: Oxford’s offensive line was healthy going into the playoffs. That was a great sign, considering the very physical teams the Jackets played this year. With 562 yards rushing, need anymore be said? … Smith-Lindsey has consistently gained 100 yards in nine of 10 games this season and averaged two touchdowns a game. Tonight he got 270 yards on 26 carries and his two touchdowns. Carlisle was one yard shy of giving them three 100-yard backs in the game … Receiver Rock Taylor has been out the last two games for disciplinary reasons. Smith-Lindsey caught a big pass and Zay Britt had the spectacular touchdown grab. It was a wet field and the running attack was so good, there was not much need for the passing game.

FOR THE DEFENSE: Clay Webb saw some action at nose guard as he went in for a few plays in the second half and was part of a goal-line stand. Octavious Adair had seven tackles … Linebacker Kendall McCallum was back at full speed. He had two sacks in the first quarter and ended up with three in the game. “It felt good to beat those guys, “ McCallum said, “and good to be back at full speed” … The secondary only allowed nine completions in 23 attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Jackets are on edge when it comes to extra points and covering their kickoffs. Andrew Warhurst does a great job kicking off, with his sideline kicks usually reaching the 10 or 15. However, if the kick returner makes a cut back, the Yellow Jackets’ coverage has been getting out of its lanes and returns to midfield have been commonplace … Warhurst was six of six on extra points in the game.

CLEANING THE NOTEBOOK: This was the Trojans’ first home playoff game in school history. Unusually, the Trojans also were hosting a home basketball game; usually, the basketball games get moved back. Attendance was way down due to this and the brisk weather that was around 35 degrees by the game’s end with a bitter wind blowing in your face … Their last playoff appearance was in 2015 when Oxford assistant coach Will Wagnon was the head coach.

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