Oxford improves to 3-0
● By Steven Hoffman
Owen J. Roberts scored 20 points and then 28 points on the way to a 2-0 start to the 2018 season. But then, last Friday night, the Wildcats traveled to Oxford and found a big challenge waiting—the Hornets’ disciplined and determined defense.
The Wildcats’ offense had its moments—especially in the first half—but the Oxford defense hit, swarmed, battled, tackled, contained, and hustled for four quarters.
On the offensive side, Oxford running back Tim Faber accumulated 175 total yards as a runner and receiver, and quarterback Brett Kochmansky threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Oxford earned an impressive 28-9 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season.
While Oxford’s offense shined during the first two wins of the season, it was the defense that propelled the Hornets to the victory over Owen J. Roberts.
“This was our defense’s night,” said Oxford head coach Mike Means. “They played a phenomenal game tonight.”
Owen J. Roberts claimed an early 3-0 lead after junior quarterback Cooper Chamberlain engineered a drive that moved the ball from the 23-yard line to deep inside Oxford territory. Running back Marcus Martin moved the chains with one nice run, and Chamberlain picked up one first down on a quarterback keeper and threw for another when he connected with wide receiver Savaughn Davidheiser. But then the Hornets’ defense made a good stand—defensive ends Jay Morton and Ryan Kelly made key plays to push Owen J. Roberts backward, and the Wildcats had to settle for a field goal with 1:34 left to play in the first quarter.
Oxford struck back quickly. On the third play of the team’s next drive, Kochmansky kept the ball on a quarterback keeper. He found a little running room, shook one would-be tackler, and then worked his way toward the left sideline where he dodged several defenders and raced 46 yards for a dazzling touchdown. Oxford led 7-3 as the first quarter came to a close.
The two teams’ defenses started to settle in, and the Wildcats and Hornets were both forced to punt on their next possessions. But another big play by Oxford helped the Hornets add to their lead. Kochmansky threw a short pass to Faber in the flat, and the running back showed his quickness and elusiveness as he cut back across the field for a terrific 51-yard gain that moved the ball all the way down to the 11-yard line of Owen J. Roberts. On the next play, Kochmansky lofted a touch pass to wide receiver Brandon McWilliams, who raced into the end zone for a touchdown. It was now 14-3.
Owen J. Roberts capitalized on a turnover late in the second quarter to start what would turn out to be a 60-yard touchdown drive. The two biggest plays involved Chamberlain connecting with Davidheiser—the first catch was good for 21 yards, while the second one was an 11-yard play that reached the end zone. The extra-point kick was blocked so the score was 14-9 at halftime.
Owen J. Roberts seemed to be building some momentum during the first drive of the third quarter. Running back Devan Banos had his longest run of the game, moving his team into Oxford territory. But on the next play, Chamberlain fired a pass in the direction of a receiver along the right sideline. Oxford linebacker Alijah Thomas got a good read on the ball—and made an even better catch as he intercepted the pass. He picked up blockers along the way and raced 69 yards for a touchdown. The defensive touchdown not only pushed Oxford’s lead to 21-9, it also swung the momentum in Oxford’s direction.
“It was huge,” Means said of the play. “Alijah had the best week of practice this week and he played a good game for us.”
Following the touchdown by Thomas, Oxford’s defense went back to work. Owen J. Roberts managed to pick up one first down on the drive, but then, on a third-and-long, defensive end Jared Vining stopped Chamberlain on a quarterback keeper before he could pick up another first down.
After the defense forced another punt, Oxford’s offense was back on the attack. Kochmansky found Faber with a short pass in the flat and the running back turned in an electrifying play as avoided tacklers and raced down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown. Oxford had a 28-9 lead with 5:19 left to play in the third.
Means said that Faber’s toughness as a runner makes him a threat to the defense every time he gets the ball in his hands.
“He’s a tough runner, and he’s really hard to bring down with just one guy,” Means said.
The 19-point advantage was more than enough for Oxford’s defense on this night, and the Hornets closed out the win. The final score suggested that the win was actually easier than it was—Owen J. Roberts was a good test for Oxford.
“They played us very tough,” Means said of Owen J. Roberts. But once again, the Hornets were able to have a strong second half.
According to strong safety Nathan Ferro, it’s no secret why Oxford plays better as the game progresses.
“We condition like crazy,” Ferro said, “and that helps us own the second half.”
Means said that he was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Our kids are playing confident football right now,” Means said. “This is a tight-knit group. That’s part of the culture that we’re trying to build.”
Oxford made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years last season, and the 3-0 start is obviously what the team wanted. Means said that he and the other coaches are emphasizing that the team needs to stay focused on the next game.
“We’re not looking ahead,” the coach said. “We’re not talking about playoffs or thinking about the points. We’re playing ten one-week seasons.”
Next, the Hornets travel to face Penn Wood on Saturday at 1 p.m. Then, on Friday, Sept. 21, the Hornets host Unionville.