Playoff-bound Oxford defeats Octorara, 55-21
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford Hornets football team is going to the playoffs for the first time in 24 years.
Oxford closed out the regular season in impressive fashion last Friday night by defeating Octorara, 55-21, to improve to 6-4 in the regular season. Oxford’s high-powered offense shifted into high gear against the Braves, scoring—and scoring quickly—on its first six possessions.
The first touchdown came on a two-yard run by Chandler England with 8:51 left to play in the first quarter. It took Oxford just four plays to score. The Braves responded quickly, scoring a touchdown of their own on a 68-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon Jackson.
Oxford’s next drive started at their own 25, and it took the Hornets precisely three plays to reach the end zone. England connected with Brandon Holz for 16 yards, and then threw a pass that wide receiver Alijah Thomas turned into a 56-yard gain. Holz scored from three yards out to make it 14-7.
Justin Neskie capped Oxford’s next drive with a 21-yard touchdown run. Then, on the Hornets’ next possession, Holz scored again, making it 27-7 on a 21-yard touchdown run.
Octorara battled back, driving 62 yards on nine plays. The biggest play of the drive came when running back Sye Hall took a handoff and, while still in the backfield, fired a pass to John Easterday that gained 30 yards and moved Octorara deep into Oxford territory. Fullback Jude Unitis rumbled into the end zone from eight yards out to cut Oxford’s lead to 27-14.
The star of Oxford’s next offensive series was England’s favorite target, wide receiver Brandon DeShields, who caught three passes, including a nine-yard touchdown. DeShields reached a milestone in the first half, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
“I’m so proud of the season this kid has had,” Oxford head coach Mike Means said of the standout wide receiver. “He’s an amazing kid, and I’m so happy for him. I think he’s the best receiver in the league.”
Means got emotional talking about how DeShields has worked very hard to become the player that he is today. When Means arrived as Oxford’s coach three seasons ago, DeShields made a commitment to working harder not just on the football field, but in the classroom. Means is as proud of DeShields’ accomplishments in the classroom as he is for the on-field success.
“His work ethic is what turned things around. He really put the time into it,” Means said.
Oxford increased its lead to 41-14 late in the second quarter when England scored on a tough 15-yard run
It took Oxford precisely 58 seconds to march 65 yards on the first drive of the second half as Holz turned in another big play—this time a 51-yard touchdown run. Holz ran for 135 yards on just 11 carries, and scored three touchdowns. With the lead extended to 48-14, it was time for the Hornets to insert some of their younger players to get them some work and to protect the starters for the playoffs. Oxford tacked on one more score, a touchdown in the third quarter, and Octorara scored early in the fourth quarter to reach the 55-21 final score.
England turned in another fine performance for Oxford, throwing for nearly 200 yards on 11 completions. But the hero of the night was certainly DeShields, who not only reached the 1,000-yard milestone, but also surpassed 100 yards in this game. He is just one of the reasons why Oxford has transformed into a playoff team in just Means’ third year as coach.
In addition to the players, Means credited his assistant coaches with helping to build the program.
“It’s the greatest group of guys,” Means said. “We’ve experienced growth every season. I couldn’t do it without these guys.”
What’s the best part about the assistant coaches?
“They care about the kids first,” Means said.
The coach added that everyone involved with the football program is looking forward to the challenge that the District 1 playoffs offer. Oxford will travel to play Marple Newtown at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3.
“We’re newcomers to this party,” Means said. “We need to prepare at the highest level. We’re going to be facing a quality opponent. We’re excited for the opportunity.”