E.A. Sports Today

Planting their flag

Oxford headed to state flag football finals after dominating a Vestavia team that had beaten them twice this season, 18-6

Oxford’s Ashlyn Burns (8) and Xai Whitfield celebrate after Whitfield scored the game’s first touchdown in the Lady Jackets’ state semifinals win over Vestavia Hills Monday night. (Photo by Bo Hudgins)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The players on the Oxford flag football team are playing for more than themselves during this playoff run, Lady Jackets head coach Wes Brooks reminded them before and after Monday night’s state semifinal against Vestavia Hills.

They were playing for the pride of their community and signified their commitment by symbolically planting their flag in the middle of the field. To solidify their commitment to the cause he encouraged them to step outside the logo in the center of the field then come with “Two Feet In” to demonstrate their total commitment.

The Lady Jackets were all-in on all counts Monday in beating Vestavia 18-6 at Lamar Field to earn a spot in the state championship game Nov. 30 in Auburn’s Jordan Hare Stadium. They will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Auburn-Hoover game.

“There are 21,390 people in the city of Oxford,” Brooks said. “We sat in this room and said our job tonight is to plant the flag and protect Oxford. They land on the moon, what did they do; they planted a flag on the moon. At Iwo Jima they planted a flag.

“In the pregame talk I drew up one play and I turned around and said there are 21,390 people in the city of Oxford. It’s y’all job to protect Oxford. They’re coming here, inside of our O that you guys are two feet in and when this game is over we’re going to plant that flag. Or they’re going to plant a big V flag in the middle of our O. It’s your job to protect Oxford.”

The Lady Jackets were denied a trip to the first flag football state finals last year by Hewitt-Trussville, but this year they weren’t going to be denied.

Even when they were turned back at the 1 on the game’s opening drive, they weren’t deterred. They opened a 12-0 halftime lead, scoring two touchdowns in the final 65 seconds of the second quarter, added a third touchdown early in the fourth quarter and held a Vestavia team that had beaten them twice this season (both without their volleyball players) out of the end zone until the final 30 seconds of the game.

“They protected Oxford,” Brooks said. “They played aggressive. I told the girls in pregame we were going to be aggressive on offense and we tried to buzz down and take a gamble (on defense) and try to pick some balls. The last two weeks we played to win the game. We did not play to not to lose.”

Reygan White was all over the field for Oxford. She had an interception and scored touchdowns rushing and receiving. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

Xai Whitfield and Reygan White scored Oxford’s first two touchdowns, rewards of sorts for intercepting passes on the previous Vestavia possessions. 

Whitfield picked off a pass with 3:32 left in the half and then caught a 25-yard TD pass from Gabby Lindsey with 1:05 to go to open the scoring. White ended Vestavia’s next possession with 20 seconds left in the half. Lindsey went up top to Ashlyn Burns on the first play to get inside the 5 and after just missing a TD pass to White on the next play, hit her in the sternum from 4 yards out on the last play of the half for another score.

Lindsey completed eight passes in the first half for 134 yards.

“Our plan was to attack through the air and attack on the ground,” Lindsey said. “This means a lot because last year we lost in this position. Now that we’re going to the state championship all of us are excited. We know we have support and feel loved by everybody. Like coach Brooks says, ‘B-I-G – believe in greatness.’”

White made it 18-0 with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:23 left. She rushed for 65 yards in the game.

“It’s so crazy because we’ve been working so hard all year,” White said. “We’ve been saying this motto the whole year, ‘Two Feet In,’ like everybody gives all their effort and I feel like everybody on the team, even if they’re on the sideline, they’ve been giving all their effort.

“We’ve been doing that even last year. Planting the flag, that’s something new, for sure. The whole community of Oxford, we’re just trying to make them happy, show them what it means to be Oxford, protect the Oxford logo.”

Vestavia changed quarterbacks to start the second half and Julia Rose opened the half with five straight completions to to get the Lady Rebels inside the 5. But Oxford ‘s defense held strong again, keeping them out of the end zone on four straight incompletions. The last pass short-hopped the receiver.

The Lady Rebels did not have a rushing attempt in the second half.

The Lady Jackets dodged another bullet midway through the fourth quarter when a 77-yard pick-six by Christiana Belcher was negated by a personal foul before the interception. The Lady Jackets retained possession and but ultimately were turned back at the 1 again.

“We need to get better at punching it in right there,” Brooks said.

Vestavia went back downfield and scored its touchdown. The Lady Rebels went for a 3-point PAT with the hopes of doing it again for the tie, but Burns broke up the play and the Lady Jackets simply ran out the clock to seal the victory that sent them to the state finals.

“I still haven’t processed it yet,” White said. “I don’t think I’m going to process it until I get there, I’m like I’m really here to stay and we’re going to win. We’re going to win. We’re going all the way.”

AHSAA semifinals
Oxford 18, Vestavia 6

VH (6)OX (18)
91st Downs11
20-37-2Passing (C-A-I)9-20-1
177Passing yds161
Vestavia Hills (17-2)0006 –6
Oxford (18-3)01206 –18

O Xai Whitfield 25 pass from Gabby Lindsey (pass failed), 1:05 2Q
O Reygan White 4 pass from Gabby Lindsey, 0:00 2Q
O Reygan White 7 run (PAT failed), 1:23 4Q
V Emma Chase Neely 5 pass from Ella Gallaspy (pass failed), 0:31 4Q

Oxford flag football quarterback Gabby Lindsey threw two touchdown passes in the final 65 seconds of the first half to stake the Lady Jackets to a 12-0 halftime lead. (Photo by Mike Lett/Lett’s Focus Photography)

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