Oxford celebrates Homecoming
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford’s offense put 34 points on the scoreboard against Great Valley, but it was the Hornets’ swarming defense that saved the victory with two crucial stops in the closing minutes of the game last Friday night.
The first big play by the Hornets’ defense came after Great Valley drove from its own one-yard line to the 34 of Oxford on 11 plays. Then, on a fourth-and-one, Great Valley running back Amani Christopher took the handoff and looked for an opening. Instead, Oxford cornerback Nathan Roumaniotis worked his way into the backfield and stopped Christopher before he could pick up the first down. There was just 1:43 left to play in the game.
Oxford’s offense was missing starting quarterback Brett Kochmansky, who was injured on a play early in the fourth quarter, and Great Valley was able to force Oxford to go three-and-out while utilizing two timeouts to stop the clock. As a result, Great Valley got the ball back on its own 40-yard line with 1:06 to play. The Patriots had already scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and momentum seemed to have swung in their favor as Great Valley quarterback Jake Prevost led his team back out on the field for the potential game-winning drive. Prevost already had 23 completions in the game, and Oxford’s hold on the game seemed tenuous at best.
On first down, Prevost fired an incompletion. On second down, he lofted a pass toward the left sideline where standout wide receiver Josh Burgess was trying to find an opening. Oxford cornerback Brandon McWilliams made a good adjustment on the ball and picked it off at the ten-yard line to preserve the victory for the Hornets.
“It’s the second time he closed the game out with a pick for us,” said Oxford head coach Mike Means moments after his team improved its record to 5-3 on the season. “That was a huge play by him.”
For his part, McWilliams was happy to help his team walk away with a win in a very tough game. The fact that the exciting victory capped a week of Homecoming activities made the victory even sweeter for the team and its fans who once again packed the stands.
“It really feels great to win in front of the Homecoming crowd,” McWilliams said.
Both teams turned in a number of plays throughout the game that set the stage for the exciting finish.
Prevost threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns, including a few really nice completions to wide receiver Brendan O'Donnell. Christopher ran for two touchdowns and had several big gains.
Oxford’s running attack, meanwhile, tallied more than 300 yards—running back Tim Faber accounted for 170 of those yards, while Kochmansky picked up 125 yards. Kochmansky scored two touchdowns. Faber scored three times, including a dazzling 70-yard run that gave Oxford a 34-26 lead with 11:35 to play in the game. Great Valley cut the lead to 34-32 with 6:53 left to play when Christopher scored from six yards out, but the two-point conversion failed. Oxford’s defense then made the slim lead stand up.
On offense, Oxford was aggressive all game. On one drive alone, the Hornets went for it on fourth down three times, and made it each time. On another drive, Oxford went for it on fourth-and-15 and picked up 23 yards on a beautiful pass play from Kochmansky to Justin Neskie. That aggressiveness helped Oxford build a 20-7 lead in the second quarter.
“Our approach is to be aggressive,” Means said. “That’s really our identity as a team. We’re aggressive. I think I’d be doing a disservice to the team if we didn’t play aggressively in those situations.”
On defense, the Hornets gave up some big plays, but there were also a lot of big plays against a good offensive team.
“We gave up 32 points,” Means said. “But I thought our kids played a really physical game on defense.”
Oxford played four sophomores on defense as a result of injuries, and the defensive unit turned in a good, hustling effort. Means said that some of the injured players could be back in the lineup in the next week or two as Oxford prepares for the most important games of the season.
Means said that the team is taking it one game at a time and isn’t thinking about the playoffs yet, but there is no question that the victory over Great Valley was important. The Hornets have an away game against Kennett (3-5) on Oct. 19 and a home game against Bishop Shanahan (3-5) on Oct. 26 to close out the regular season. Two more wins by Oxford should guarantee not just a berth in district playoffs for a second straight year, but possibly a home game in round one. But wins in the Ches-Mont League are never easy, as the game against Great Valley illustrated, so there could be plenty of excitement still to come in the 2018 season.