Strong team effort propels Oxford to win over Sun Valley
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford running back Dominic Pantalone ran for three touchdowns and quarterback Thomas Rapetz threw for two touchdowns and ran for one more as the Oxford Hornets defeated Sun Valley, 49-7, last Friday night.
The Hornets got on the scoreboard just two minutes into the game when wide receiver Joey Morton slipped beyond the Sun Valley defense and Rapetz launched a deep throw down the middle of the field. Morton hauled in the pass and raced into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
On defense, the Hornets put forward a very strong effort, limiting Sun Valley to just four first downs in the first half. After Vanguards running back Andrew Knett picked up 21 yards on Sun Valley’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Oxford’s defense forced Sun Valley to go three and out on the next three possessions. This set up Oxford’s offense in good field position for much of the first half.
On one drive, starting at the 20 of Sun Valley, Rapetz connected with Jaxson Chew on a nine-yard gain, and then Pantalone picked up eight yards on a run to the one-yard line. Rapetz plunged into the end zone on the next play, and Oxford had a 14-0 lead.
A few minutes later, the Hornets made it 21-0 when Pantalone followed carries of two yards and one yard with a big 41-yard touchdown run. He broke a tackle and exploded up the middle for the score. Pantalone, a sophomore was on his way to surpassing 100 yards in his first varsity start.
“Dom is a sophomore,” said Oxford head coach Mike Means, “and now that he’s gotten his chance to play, he has really stepped up. He runs hard. He rarely goes down from the first contact. He played a solid game for us.”
Oxford added a score in the second quarter when Rapetz led Oxford on a 75-yard drive that included a 13-yard run by Joey Morton and four more carries by Pantalone. Rapetz found wide receiver Justin Neskie, one of his favorite targets, for a nice 11-yard gain, and then connected with him again for a 39-yard touchdown. Oxford’s lead was 28-0.
The strong performance marked another step in the development of Rapetz, a senior. He finished the game with 16 completions and 208 yards passing.
“His development has been tremendous,” Means said. “I’ve had him on the team since he was a freshman. He has transitioned from a kid who has a big arm to a quarterback. I like having a senior quarterback because, in our offense, we put a lot on their shoulders.”
Means added that Rapetz is naturally a quiet person, but he has grown into the role of on-field general.
“He’s grown as a leader,” Means said. “He’s just gotten better and better.”
In the third quarter, Oxford quickly put the game away, scoring on back-to-back possessions. Oxford’s first drive of the second half started at midfield. Pantalone picked up 16 yards, followed by a 19-yard gain by Neskie. Two plays later, Pantalone scored from four yards out.
The Hornets capitalized on excellent field position on the next drive, starting at the 32 of Sun Valley. Rapetz completed a nice pass to Chew for 17 yards. Pantalone then scored from 14 yards out, making it 42-0.
To Sun Valley’s credit, the team continued to play hard, putting together a nice 13-play drive late in the third quarter. That series didn’t result in any points, but the next one did as quarterback Johnny Eckridge threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Rivera. Rivera had a solid game, turning in an interception on defense as well.
Oxford scored the seventh and last touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Joey Foutrakis returned a kickoff 71 yards for a touchdown. The Hornets gave some of their younger players playing time during much of the second half, and closed out a 49-7 victory that showcased the talents of the offense, defense, and special teams.
Means said that the victory represented a complete team effort for a full game.
“We competed last week [against Downingtown West] and that led to a good week of practice,” Means explained. “We had a rough start to the season and lost some tough games. We talked about how we can’t control the losses early in the season, but we can control every game going forward. We’re treating the rest of the season like five one-week seasons.”
Rapetz said that Oxford has stuck through the adversity of losing some key players to injuries.
“We had some guys go down with injuries,” he explained, “but when we stay together and play as a team, we can win.”
Pantalone is one example of a player stepping in to contribute when given an opportunity. Rapetz said that Oxford’s ability to run the ball against Sun Valley was important to opening up the passing game.
There was no shortage of stars for the Hornets.
Jay Morton had a very strong game as one of the defensive leaders.
“He was a terror out there tonight,” Means said. “He was all over the field.”
Joey Morton had a good game, too, starting with the touchdown catch that got Oxford off to such a good start. He caught three passes for 69 yards.
The Hornets are now 2-4 overall on the season and will host Unionville at 7 p.m. on Friday night. It is Oxford’s Homecoming game.
Means is pleased with the effort that his players have been putting in as the season unfolds.
“This is a great team to coach,” Means said. “It’s a blue collar team. They come to practice and work hard every day. They are a pleasure to coach.”