E.A. Sports Today

Can’t help being impressed

Oxford racks up another big victory, first playoff shutout since 1997, even Decatur applauds the thoroughness of the effort

Oxford’s Trey Higgins (3) and Tyetus Smith-Lindsey combined for 474 yards of offense and six of the Yellow Jackets’ seven touchdowns Friday night. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from the game, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – The Oxford Yellow Jackets couldn’t have picked a better time to be playing their best football of the season.

The Jackets smoked Decatur 49-0 Friday night at Lamar Field. They Jackets (10-2) dominated from the start with four long drives in the first half and let their defense control the rest as they move on to next week’s clash at Clay-Chalkville in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state playoffs.

It was their fourth playoff shutout all time and first in 21 years, since blanking J.O. Johnson 26-0 in the second round of the 1997 playoffs, a span of 31 games. (See chart below)

Their performance was so thorough as both teams were leaving the field at the same gate, the Red Raiders stopped and clapped for the Oxford team and wished them luck.

“You guys were as good as we have seen,” a voice bellowed from among the Red Raider players gathered at the fence.

Any time you score seven touchdowns on your first eight possessions and do not allow the opponent any points it’s a good night. The Oxford offense came right at Decatur as they opened their full playbook for the first time. Sweeps, wildcat formations, end around passes, reverse sweeps – everything worked. It was the second straight week of more than 500 yards of offense.

“We knew they were preparing for our normal I formation, so we put in the wildcat this week,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said after capturing his 50th victory at Oxford and passing his father for fastest to the milestone in their first six years. “It was the wrinkle we needed and our kids worked hard in putting it in during practice. I’ve gotta give all the credit to the kids.

“We played hard on both sides of the ball. We were playing fast; our kids are looking faster than we have been all season. Several weeks ago we said we were going to have to improve in order to go far in the playoffs and our kids have accepted the challenge to get better.”

The Jackets (10-2) struck quickly on the opening drive as they covered 51 yards in just four plays. They got the score on a 39-yard slip screen pass to Zay Britt who ran right past the flat-footed Red Raider defenders into the end zone. The Jackets had to overcome a holding penalty on the drive that negated a 40-yard run by quarterback Trey Higgins.

“We worked on those plays during the week,” said Britt, who caught two touchdowns in the game. “The execution was great and I am glad it worked out. I just ran as hard as I could.”

Oxford missed a golden opportunity to go up two scores in the first quarter. The Jackets put together a 75-yard drive but came away empty when Tyetus Smith-Lindsey had the ball knocked loose and the Red Raiders recovered at the 1.

Smith-Lindsey broke loose on runs of 39, 6 and 8 yards on the next possession though as the Jackets drove it 66 yards in six plays to go up 14-0.

Higgins took it 83 yards on the first play of the fourth Yellow Jacket possession. It gave him 100 yards rushing in the first half to go along with Smith-Lindsey’s 127. TSL ended up with 182 yards on 22 carries and Higgins ended the game with 112 yards on 5 carries.

“The guys up front worked their tails off this week and opened up some huge holes,” said Higgins, who has rushed for 288 yards in his last two games.

A good kick-off return and a roughing-the passer penalty on fourth down and the Red-Raiders were first-and-goal at the Oxford 3 with less than two minutes to go in the half. But the defense held on downs and the Jackets took a 21-0 lead into halftime.

Any hopes the Red Raiders may have had of getting back into the game were dashed when the Jackets came out of the dressing room and drove it 64 yards in 10 plays to open a 28-0 lead. Smith-Lindsey was running the wildcat and chewing up yards and Higgins mixed in a 24-yard pass to Jonovan Carlisle on the drive.

“I got some great blocking on the wildcat,” Smith-Lindsey said. “It was a lot of fun out there. I loved running the wildcat. There were a lot of holes to make my cuts.”

The avalanche continued in the third quarter when Antwon Feagins picked off a pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. It was his second pick of the season.”

I just followed Jaylen Swain down the sidelines after I got the ball and he just blocked everybody out of my way,” said Feagins.

Moments later, on a first-and-35 situation, Higgins hit Rock Taylor with a 66-yard scoring pass. Higgins connected with Britt on a 48-yard touchdown to finish the scoring. In addition to his 112 yards rushing, Higgins was 5-of-6 for 180 yards and three touchdowns passing.

Oxford 49, Decatur 0
Team stats Dec Oxf

First downs 11 18
Rushing yds 24-(-9) 41-322
Passes 14-34-3 5-6-0
Passing yds 135 180
Fumbles lost 0 1
Punts-avg 7-41.6 2-29.5
Penalties-yds 8-59 8-80

Scoring summary
Decatur 0 0 0 0 – 0
Oxford 7 14 21 7 – 49

O – Trey Higgins 39 yard pass to Zay Britt (Andrew Warhurst kick), 8:51 1Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 8 yard run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 6:43 2Q
O – Trey Higgins 83 yard run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 5:09 2Q
O – Tyetus Smith-Lindsey 5 yard run (Andrew Warhurst kick), 6:44 3Q
O – Antwon Fegans 66 yard interception return (Andrew Warhurst kick), 4:49 3Q
O – Trey Higgins 66 yard pass to Rock Taylor (Andrew Warhurst kick), 1:05 3Q
O – Trey Higgins 48 yard pass to Zay Britt (Andrew Warhurst kick), 8:38 3Q

Nov. 16, 2018 – Decatur, 49-0 (second round)
Nov. 21, 1997 – J.O. Johnson, 26-0 (second round)
Nov. 17, 1989 – Wellborn, 14-0 (third round)
Nov. 13, 1981 – at Glencoe, 27-0 (first round)

Notes from the Huddle

GAME CHANGER: With the Jackets leading 21-0, Decatur got it down to the 3 with two minutes left in the half. Instead of seizing the momentum the Red Raiders were stuffed four consecutive plays. Oxford offensive lineman Clay Webb came in on the goal line series and made two big plays and it was Oxford taking the momentum into the half. The Jackets had a 21-point lead and got the ball to start the second half.

OXFORD OFFENSE: The offensive line was clicking on all cylinders as the Jackets pounded out 234 yards rushing in the first half … Smith-Lindsey and Higgins were over 100 yards again for the second straight week. All the Yellow Jackets backs are running with fresh legs and seem to be faster than they have been all season … Receiver Rock Taylor was back, but the rushing attack was so proficient not very many passes were needed. Britt streaked 39 yards on a pass in the first quarter and seems to be getting better each week.

OXFORD DEFENSE: DL’s Jaylen Swain and Kristin Booth were lights out against the run. Decatur had minus-13 yards rushing on 14 carries in the first half; it was minus-9 on 24 carries in the game … Linebackers Kendall McCallum, Keon Fomby, Cross Davis and Garrett Davenport were putting pressure on the Red Raider quarterback as they had 4 tackles for losses in the first half … The secondary faced a tough challenge against a Decatur offense that was averaging 37 points a game. They bent, but did not break against the taller Red Raider defenders. Feagans picked off a pass and returned it 66 yards for a score.

THE SON IS UP: Ryan Herring is 50-20 in his six years with the Jackets, that’s one game better than his dad Robert, who was 49-20 in his first six years. Bill Burgess is third all-time with a record of 42-19-4 in his first six years.

The win Friday also moved Herring into fourth place on the all-time win list at Oxford.

NEXT WEEK: The Jackets will be going to Clay-Chalkville for the third time in the last calendar year. They have lost both previous times and it will be a tough challenge as a berth in the 6A semifinals is on the line. However, they will have a healthy Kendall McCallum and others back that were banged up in the first meeting this year.

Tyetus Smith-Lindsey loose his grip on the ball just short of the goal line of what would’ve been another Oxford touchdown in its 49-0 playoff rout of Decatur. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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