Big plays propel Bishop Shanahan to a win over Oxford
● By Steven Hoffman
The 2017 edition of the Oxford Hornets might not be the best football team in school history—let someone else take up a debate between different teams in different eras—but can there be any doubt that the current squad is the most entertaining one to ever wear the maroon and white?
Oxford’s season started with back-to-back wins that came in the game’s final minute—a 34-27 win over Henderson and a 42-35 victory over Twin Valley—and the excitement hasn’t stopped yet. Oxford scored 55 points in wins over Kennett and Sun Valley, and 46 more in a victory over Phoenixville. Losses to Rustin and Great Valley came by scores of 42-36 and 36-28. The only uninspiring effort came in a loss to Unionville. So it was hardly surprising when the Hornets and Bishop Shanahan Eagles combined for 49 points and approximately one million yards of offense in just the first two quarters of their Oct. 20 game.
Oxford struck first, marching 57 yards on the game’s opening drive as Brandon Holz reached the end zone on a nine-yard touchdown run.
Bishop Shanahan answered right back after a 72-yard kickoff return set the Eagles up deep inside Oxford territory. Bishop Shanahan moved the chains once, but they were soon facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the seven. Bishop Shanahan head coach Paul Meyers opted to go for it, and quarterback Andrew Smyth made that decision look good when he found wide receiver Tom Waite in the end zone for a seven-yard TD.
On the first play in the second quarter, Smyth hit wide receiver Steve Sweeney in stride with a pass over the middle. Sweeney raced down the field for a 72-yard score, giving Bishop Shanahan a 14-7 lead.
On Oxford’s next drive, quarterback Chandler England connected with Brandon DeShields on a nice 33-yard gain that moved the ball inside the five-yard line. England capped the drive two plays later when he fought his way into the end zone, tying the game at 14-14.
Sweeney scored his second touchdown of the game with 5:46 left to play in the second quarter when he scored from 15 yards out. Less than two minutes later, after Oxford went three-and-out, Sweeney scored again, this time on a dazzling 54-yard run, giving Bishop Shanahan the 28-14 edge.
Oxford responded on the very next play as Holz raced 62 yards for a score. It was 28-21.
Bishop Shanahan got the ball to start the third quarter, and they kept making big plays. Smyth completed a 30-yard pass to Zane Monroe, and a few plays later the quarterback found Monroe again for a 16-yard touchdown, giving the team a 35-21 lead.
Oxford’s comeback bid took a hit shortly thereafter as a pass by England was tipped by a defender and was picked off near midfield by Waite, who raced all the way back for a touchdown. To make matters worse for Oxford, two of its key contributors—England and running back Tim Faber—were injured on the play that Bishop Shanahan increased its lead to 42-21 on.
In the fourth quarter, Holz scored on a five-yard TD run, making it 42-27. But Bishop Shanahan tacked on two more touchdowns—one on a five-yard run by Smyth and another on a 25-yard touchdown run by Dan Dibeneditto that closed out the scoring. Dibeneditto had an excellent game on offense, defense, and special teams for Bishop Shanahan.
With the season now nine weeks old, teams are seeing injuries mount. Oxford head coach Mike Means said that some of the team’s key contributors are among those who are banged up. Oxford has won games by being more physical than their opponents, but the game got out of hand against Bishop Shanahan because Oxford had a tough time matching Bishop Shanahan’s physicality.
“We’ve made a lot of strides in three years, but if we’re going to get to the next level we’re going to need to match that physicality,” Means said.
Bishop Shanahan now has a 7-2 record, while the Hornets’ record stands at 5-4. Oxford will have a chance to secure a winning record and perhaps earn a playoff berth when the Hornets travel to Octorara on Friday, Oct. 27. Means said that a victory over Octorara would be important for the program. Octorara is 2-7, but Means said that they weren’t going to take any team lightly after the loss to Bishop Shanahan.
“We’re not going to overlook any team,” Means said. “We’re going to be missing some key players. Hopefully, we’re going to have some of our guys back in there, but if not we’re going to need some of our young guys to step up. We have a next-man-up mentality.”