E.A. Sports Today

Oxford falls in flag finals

Lady Jackets couldn’t get anything going against an Auburn team basically playing a home game, fall in title game, 26-6

Auburn flag football quarterback Brooke Hallman threw four touchdown passes in the first half of Wednesday’s state championship game against Oxford. (Photo by Marvin Gentry). On the cover, Oxford coach Wes Brooks walks out to midfield to accept the state runner-up trophy.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

AUBURN — Oxford’s dream of winning its first flag football state championship ended on a breezy Wednesday afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Lady Jackets fell to an Auburn High team basically playing a home game 26-6.

The Lady Jackets never got anything going against an Auburn defense that was allowing only four points a game until it was too late.

“Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the mouth,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “We got punched in the mouth.”

With the Oxford offense having difficulty getting signals from the sideline due to the crowd and band noise in the cavernous stadium, Auburn stopped the Lady Jackets’ first four possessions and scored touchdowns all four times it took over to build a 26-0 halftime lead.

“Probably the biggest thing for us and for me to use as a learn, because I hope we’re back here next year, not once did we play a game with both bands playing,” Brooks said. “We voiced our checks out, the girls weren’t getting the calls clear, so if I had to do it over again I probably would have had some sort of signal system in as opposed to like a call or a check or something like that. … It was loud out there.”

The idea of playing the state championship football games in the massive stadiums of the two major universities (three now with Birmingham in the mix) is to give the participants a big-time experience in a neutral-field setting. Auburn High School is 3.1 miles from Auburn University. It’d be like Jacksonville playing for it all at JSU.

Receiver Xai Whitfield said when she was in Oxford’s end near Brooks it was easy to hear, but on the far end “it was a struggle” and she sometimes had to yell back for a repeat. When there was no response she did what she thought the situation called for to “do something.”

Oxford’s Xai Whitfield (L) races to get around Auburn defender Taite Pearson. Whitfield had two interceptions, 12 receptions and scored the Lady Jackets’ touchdown. (Photo by Mike Lee)

The Lady Tigers (16-1) ended Oxford’s first two possessions with interceptions. They turned them into touchdowns in short order. They outgained the Lady Jackets (16-4) in the first half 204 yards to 73.

“That was a task I put on the defense the past three games,” Auburn coach Alison Link said. “Shoot high and they have really, really come through. It’s hard to throw over (Kristianna Ware) so when the ball’s going up in the air it seems like it’s in the air forever. That’s what we’ve been talking about: Find the ball, go ball hawk, go get everything out of the sky.”

That could apply to the offense, too. Auburn sophomore quarterback Brooke Hallman threw four touchdown passes in the first half, including a 70-yard catch and run in which Syriah Daniels made at least three Oxford defenders miss on their first play of the game and two to Ware. Hallman was 12 of 17 for 194 yards passing in the first half and 19 of 29 for 224 yards in the game.

“We just came into the game ready to play,” Hallman said. “We were coming out there to go get ’em, really. The did such a great job blocking up the middle, so that left Kris wide open every time. It gave us momentum for everything.”

Whitfield provided the biggest highlights for Oxford. She intercepted two passes in the second half and scored the Lady Jackets’ only touchdown on a 49-yard pass from Gabby Lindsey late in the fourth quarter. She caught 12 passes in the game for 143 yards.

“I tried to give 100 percent the whole time,” Whitfield said. “I didn’t try to take not one play off. I just did the best I could.”

Auburn’s Kristianna Ware (2) extends the ball before having her flag pulled. Ware caught two touchdown passes in the game. (Photo by Mike Lett)

Auburn 26, Oxford 6

71st Downs9
15-29-2Passing (C-A-I)19-30-2
155Passing yds224
Oxford (16-4)0006 —6
Auburn (16-1)131300 —26

A: Syriah Daniels 70 pass from Brooke Hallman (pass failed), 6:35 1Q
A: Kristianna Ware 8 pass from Brooke Hallman (Syriah Daniels pass from Brooke Hallman), 0:00 1Q
A: Taite Pearson 11 pass from Brooke Hallman (Madison Allen pass from Brooke Hallman), 1:43 2Q
A: Kristianna Ware 5 pass from Brooke Hallman (pass failed), 0:17 2Q
O: Xai Whitfield 49 pass from Gabby Lindsey (pass failed), 3:07 4Q

Oxford’s Ashlyn Burns (R) and Auburn’s Nivea Jackson compete for a ball in the air. (Photo by Mike Lett)
Oxford’s Bella Reaves (3) pulls Auburn quarterback Brooke Hallman’s flag. (Photo by Mike Lett)

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