Opposing viewpoint: Oxford

Staff Writer

Oxford had become one of the top programs in Class 5A football under legendary coach Johnny HIll and playing top teams across the state has not been anything new for the Chargers.

That includes matching up with the Class 6A Starkville Yellowjackets, who have won four of the last five meetings against Oxford, including three-straight. No longer is Oxford competing in 5A, however and Hill has been gone for two years.

Chris Cutcliffe has taken over at the school, but he has no plans of seeing the program’s tradition slip away as the team made the move this season up a classification to 6A.

In year one for Cutcliffe, the former offensive coordinator of the Chargers was not only dealing with his first year as a head coach replacing a legend, but also replacing record-holding quarterback Jack Abraham and All-American wide receiver D.K. Metcalf. The team went through some growing pains but finished the year with eight wins and a second round exit in the playoffs.

Starkville coach Chris Jones knows about Cutcliffe’s background and the family tree he grew from under father David Cutcliffe, the former Ole Miss coach and current Duke head man.

“I think he does a great job,” Jones said of Cutcliffe. “First of all, he’s got a good pedigree. His dad is one of the best to do it and is still doing it so he’s going to have his guys ready to rock and roll. Even before he got there, I think coach Hill did a really good job.”

The Chargers are coming off of their first win as a 6A squad as they beat Vicksburg 21-6 last week in the Red Carpet Bowl. Starting quarterback John Reece McClure threw for 95 yards and two touchdowns while senior running back Hiram Wadlington stole the show with his 23 carries, 149 yards and a touchdown.

Jones has seen some weapons on film and that includes talented senior wide receiver Jaquan Webb, who has early offers from Louisville, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Lafayette, South Alabama, Tulane and many others. He’s just one of several talented players that can make something happen on offense.

On defense, Jones sees a fast, physical and veteran group that is going to make the smart plays.

“I know this year, they seem like they’ve got some pretty good athletes," Jones said. "They’ve got a wide out that has a lot of (scholarship offers) and they’ll try to get him the ball as much as possible. Defensively, they have a lot of seniors so I expect them to be really stout. Offensively, they’re still trying to find their niche.”

Starkville players have noticed some of the same from Oxford’s defense when watching film.

Running back Rodrigues Clark says many of his teammates mirror the Chargers’ scheme on film. He sees it as a good thing as he knows what to expect, but it could also be a bad thing if they play up to the Yellowjackets’ level of intensity.

“They basically run the same defense that we do," Clark said. "It’s just like another practice to us. We know what to expect out of what they like to do and we’ll be ready for it.”

The Chargers will be coming to Oktibbeha County on Friday looking to put the SHS winning streak to rest and bring the Little Egg Bowl trophy home with them for the first time since 2013.

In Jones’ eyes, they’re completely capable of doing so.

“I think they’re a good team that’s well-coached," Jones said. "Hats go off to that coaching staff over there because every time I watch film, it just looks like they do things how it’s supposed to be run. They’re fundamentally sound. We can’t beat ourselves, we’ve got to come out and play some good, fundamental football.”