E.A. Sports Today

Nemesis strikes again

Oxford falls to familiar demon, but still has chance to win its region championship

Oxford quarterback Trey Higgins (3) threw two of his three touchdown passes Friday in the third quarter to give the Yellow Jackets a lead.

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – Clay-Chalkville has been a thorn in Oxford’s side for the past couple years and the Cougars were again Friday night.
The Cougars rallied for 19 straight points in the second half and then hung on to nip the Yellow Jackets 26-21 at Lamar Field.

Trailing 7-0 at the half, Oxford came out blazing in the second half and punched in two touchdowns on an 8-yard Trey Higgins pass to Jaylen Swain and a 41-yard Higgins strike to Rock Taylor.

It was then that the wheels began to come off for Jackets (7-1, 4-1). The Cougars drove it 70 yards for a score and were aided by 45 yards in penalties that did not please the Oxford home crowd at all. 

The Jackets imploded on the next possession as Taylor, who caught 10 passes for 135 yards and two scores, just had the ball pop up out of his hands into the air and Cougars’ defender Cameron Grady grabbed it and was tackled at the Oxford 14. Two plays later quarterback Damione Ward dover in from the 2 for his second touchdown of the game.
After a field goal and a safety on a bad snap on a punt the Cougars were up 26-14. With 6 minutes to go in the game the Jackets fought back with a quick score as Higgins found Taylor at the goal line on an 18-yard slant to cut the margin to 26-21.

Oxford forced a three and out and had one last shot, but a fourth down pass was knocked down at the 10 and the Cougars were celebrating.

“Wow, what a game,” Cougars coach William Gilmer said. “We knew if we could eliminate the big play and keep their receivers from getting behind us, we would have a chance.
“We had some players injured early in the season that hurt us, but they are back now and we look forward to the playoffs. Oxford is a great football team and we were trying to make them have to put together long drives to beat us. The more plays in a drive means there was more chances to make mistakes and we were able to capitalize.”

The Cougars (6-2, 3-2) have been doing things like this to Oxford for three seasons and ven coach Keith Etheredge said this was the team the Jackets had to get past to take the next step in their development as a championship team.
In 2017, the Cougars knocked an undefeated Oxford team out of the playoffs in the third round. Last year as region rivals they beat them twice, one again coming in the third round of the playoffs.

You knew it was going to be a war and it was in the first half. The Cougars put together a five-play, 68-yard scoring drive on their first possession by getting the ball quickly to the outside and making the Oxford defense spread out. 
The Oxford defense has yielded less than a yard a carry all season and Clay-Chalkville was intent on not trying the middle of that run defense. The Cougars only ran five running plays the entire half and only one was up the middle of the defense and it lost a yard.

“They were stacking the line, so we had to try and take advantage of what they were giving us,” said Gilmer.

Oxford made some adjustments after that opening drive. Ward hit on his first four passes with the touchdown coming on a 26-yarder to Ed Osley. Ward would only connect on four of his next 14 passes in the half for only 16 yards and one first down.

Meanwhile, the Jackets were being frustrated as three trips deep into Cougars territory resulted in no points. Higgins had a 40-yard run to the 10 called back on a double penalty that stopped the opening drive. Two more drives were killed by end zone interceptions. 

“The penalties were killing us in this game,” said Oxford head coach Keith Etheredge. “But we just have to tip our hats to them. They played well and have a good football team. We still have to beat Gardendale next week to win the region, so the loss does not really impact us on the region championship. That will all be out there next week.”

Another huge contest awaits the Yellow Jackets next week as they host the Gardendale Rockets with the Region 6 title on the line and a home play-off game in the first round. A win for Oxford would clinch the title and a loss would need tie-breakers to determine the region champion.

CC (26)Oxford (21)
121st D18

Clay-Chalkville        7  0 14  5  –  26
Oxford                       0  0 14  7  –  21
Scoring plays
CC – Ed Osley 26 pass from Damione Ward (Jaren Van Winkle kick), 7:22 1Q
O – Jaylan Swain 3 pass from Trey Higgins (Andrew Warhurst kick), 9:06 3Q
O – Rock Taylor 41 pass from Trey Higgins (Andrew Warhurst kick), 6:08 3Q
CC – Damione Ward 1 run (Jaren Van Winkle kick), 3:04 3Q
CC – Damione Ward 2 run (Jaren Van Winkle kick), 2:05 3Q
CC – Jaren Van Winkle 32 FG, 11:14 4Q
CC – Safety, ball snapped out of end zone, 9:02 4Q
O – Rock Taylor 18 pass from Trey Higgins (Andrew Warhurst kick), 4:28 4Q

Clay-Chalkville’s Leroy King (30) and Chris Cornutt bring down Oxford quarterback Trey Higgins.

Photos by B.J. Franklin

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from the game, go to this link: www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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