Oxford finishes the season with two straight wins
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford Hornets finished the season on a high note last Friday night, defeating Octorara, 35-14, for their second straight victory. It was a gratifying conclusion to the 2016 campaign, especially for the 22 seniors on the roster who helped set the tone as the Oxford football program charted a new course during head coach Mike Means’ first two seasons.
“It’s great to send our seniors off that way,” Means said after the victory. “They have been working hard to bring our program back to respectability. I’m very proud of our players.”
Oxford put together a complete game at Octorara, winning the line of scrimmage battle on both sides of the ball. Many of Oxford’s seniors were key contributors throughout the game. Octorara threatened to score on its first drive of the game, but Mike Weber and Mykie Brown, two of Oxford’s senior defensive linemen, sacked quarterback Trent Pawling on a critical fourth down play that gave Oxford’s offense the ball at the 43-yard line.
Oxford quarterback Chandler England found one of his favorite targets, senior wide receiver Troy Brown, for an 11-yard gain that gave the Hornets a fresh set of downs. Tim Davis, Oxford’s talented running back, took the hand off the next play and rumbled 43 yards for a touchdown with 1:59 left to play in the second quarter.
Oxford pushed the lead to 14-0 after a 56-yard drive that was highlighted by a beautiful 20-yard slant pass from England to tight end Pat Kinsella, another Hornet senior. Brandon Holz contributed a nice 15-yard carry, and Davis finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. Oxford was getting good blocking up front by Jared Tweed, Connor McMurrough, Josh Freese, George Tzanakis, and Brendan Chew, so Oxford's runners had room to run. Kicker Ryan Hannum’s extra point made it 14-0 with 6:56 left to play in the second quarter.
Chew, playing at the outside linebacker position on defense, made a touchdown-saving tackle after Pawling found Scott Burridge on a screen pass over the middle that moved the ball 25 yards to the eight-yard line of Oxford. The Hornets’ defense made a stand, however, and four plays later they took over on downs with the 14-0 lead intact.
Oxford’s next drive started at their own five-yard line, but a 25-yard gain on a pass from England to Brown on one play, and then a personal foul penalty against Octorara following an incomplete pass moved the ball close to midfield. England connected with Holz on a seven-yard pass play, and then found Brown on back to back plays that covered a total of 32 yards. Three plays after that, from the 17-yard line, England lofted another pass toward Brown, who was racing for the end zone. The ball hit a defender’s hands, but Brown pulled it in for the score, making it 21-0 with 13 seconds left in the second quarter.
Oxford made it 28-0 after Davis capped a 55-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run with about seven minutes to go in the third quarter. It was Davis’ third touchdown of the night, and Means said that it was good to see him have a strong performance in his final game as a Hornet. He explained that Davis has worked hard to overcome some nagging injuries during the season.
The Hornets’ offense produced a fifth touchdown early in the fourth quarter after a 75-yard drive that featured the running of senior running back Cullen Jones. Jones finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run that was the culmination, his coach said, of a lot of hard work during his career at Oxford.
“He’s a good kid,” Means said. “He shows up and works hard at every single practice. He really deserved this game.”
Means said that seeing Jones score that touchdown was one of the highlights of his coaching career.
Octorara scored twice in the final minutes of the game as Nick Raabe hauled in a 23-yard pass and Jude Unitis caught an 11-yarder to make it 35-14. After winning the first game of the season over Springfield Township, Octorara finished with a 1-9 record, while Oxford’s two victories in two games gave the Hornets a 3-7 overall record.
Oxford’s wins in the final two games illustrates the hard work that the players have put in, Means said, explaining that he thinks the team has made the most improvement on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Last year, there were times when we got bullied up front. That hasn’t happened this year. We’ve started to get that mean streak that we need,” he explained.
The Oxford coach also said that England, a junior, has made great strides during the season.
“He’s done a lot of positive things for us,” Means said. “He plays with a lot of heart and a lot of moxie. I trust him with the ball in his hands.”
England will likely be one of the leaders of the team when the Hornets take the field again in 2017.