E.A. Sports Today

Oxford wins close one

Yellow Jackets stage second-half rally to get past 5A runner-up Pleasant Grove, 29-28

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

PLEASANT GROVE – “I am turning gray much sooner than I expected,” Oxford coach Keith Etheredge said Friday night after his second-ranked 6A Yellow Jackets shook off 20 straight first-half points and came back to pull out a 29-28 victory over No. 2 5A Pleasant Grove in a second straight matchup of state finalists.

The Yellow Jackets (1-1) put together four long drives in the second half. They scored on two of them, were stopped on downs on another and went into victory formation at the 10 yard-line at game’s end.

“We found out that our football team will not quit against superior competition and that these kids are winners and will find a way to win,” said Etheredge.

The Jackets were shredded in the first half by a Pleasant Grove offense seeking to bounce back after falling short by one yard in last year’s 5A state championship game.

The Spartans were aggressive on both sides of the ball and were trying to bait Oxford into personal fouls. It backfired on them as they ended being penalized 16 times for 175 yards with six being late hits or personal fouls. There were a total of 27 penalties for 275 yards between the two teams.

“We told our kids what they were trying to do and to not let them get them into something that would hurt the team,” Etheredge said. “They did a great job of not responding and keeping their composure.”

In another wild first half of offense the Jackets started off the scoring with a 24-yard pass from quarterback Trey Higgins to Warren Britt. The Spartans answered on their next possession with quarterback Zyquez Perryman connecting with Kentucky commit receiver Christian Lewis on a 29-yard score.

After a three-and-out, Perryman, a Charlotte- commit himself, hit Lewis on an 81-yard scoring pass and all of a sudden Pleasant Grove was on top 14-7. The Spartans took advantage of an interception of a Higgins pass to stop an Oxford drive and added another score on a touchdown pass to Lewis with two minutes left in the half to go up 20-7.

Lewis began dancing around the end zone and got hit with a 15-yard personal foul as did another Spartan. Etheredge took one penalty on the extra point and one on the ensuing kickoff. The Spartans had to go 18 yards to get the two-point conversion as their kicker could not kick it far enough to go for one, and they did not get it, leaving the score at 20-7.

Then they were forced to kick off from their own 15 and Oxford took over at the Spartans 40 with two minutes left in the half. Higgins sprinted some 30 yards on the first play and scored moments later, cutting the deficit to 20-15 at halftime knowing they’d get the ball to start the second half. The extra point snap was low and holder Britt picked it up and carried in for the two points.

Oxford was able to take the opening drive of the second half 52 yards in 10 plays with Keeshon Siosi punching it from 4 yards out on a pass from Higgins to put the Jackets back on top 22-20.

Oxford’s next possession was capped by a 40-yard screen pass to Rod Elston that went for a touchdown and the lead was 29-20 with 8:11 to play.

The Spartans were not through as they scored with six minutes left on a 3-yard scamper by Demarcus Lacey. Perryman’s pass for the two-point conversion cut Oxford’s lead to one at 29-28.
The Yellow Jackets took the ball and ran out the clock as they drove all the way inside the 10 before falling on the snap three times out of the victory formation.

The Jackets’ running game is beginning to come together after two games against two of the top defenses in the state. Siosi had 81 yards on 13 carries. Elston had 23 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving.

Defensive back Trequon Fegans switched over to offense, carried twice for 28 yards and had a long punt return called back. The junior all-state running back, who scored the winning touchdown in Oxford’s state championship win last year, may be the best back the Jackets have, but has not been needed so far.

“We did a great job of running the football and using our backs out of the backfield tonight,” Etheredge said. “Trey did a great job of getting the ball to them. Siosi had some big runs for us and Elston provided a big spark for us.”

Six different receivers caught passes for the Yellow Jackets. Britt led the way with 80 yards, with Rock Taylor catching four passes for 24 yards and rushing three times for 26 yards. Elston had two catches for 50 yards.

“Warren had a big night for us,” Etheredge said. “They were doubling on Rock, so Trey had to go to some other guys and they proved they could do the job for us and get open.”

The Jackets will have their home opener next week as they open region play against Scottsboro. Then they’ll be back on the road for two straight weeks.

Oxford                        7   8    7    7   —    29
Pleasant Grove       14    6    0   8  —    28
O – Warren Britt 24 pass from Trey Higgins (Nicolas Gutierrez kick), 6:51 1Q
PG – Chris Lewis 29 pass from Zyquez Perryman (Andre Watts kick), 3:00 1Q
PG – Chris Lewis 29 pass from Zyquez Perryman (Andre Watts kick), 0:19 1Q
PG – Chris Lewis 29 pass from Zyquez Perryman (run failed), 2:10 2Q
O – Trey Higgins 3 run (Warren Britt run), 1:10 2Q
O – Keeshon Siosi 4 pass from Trey Higgins (Nicolas Gutierrez kick), 6:56 3Q
O – Rod Elston 40 pass from Trey Higgins (Nicolas Gutierrez kick), 8:11 4Q
PG – Demarcus Lacey 4 run (Brayden Coleman pass from Zyquez Perryman), 6:05 4Q

Oxf                             PG
25            1D            15
39-193  Rush       18-83
15-25-1  C-A-I        17-24-0
193         Pass         253
0-0           F-L            1-1
1-45.0   Punt       2-39.0
11-100  Pen          16-175

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