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Chester County Press

Oxford wins overtime thriller, 41-34

10/04/2013 12:17AM ● By Acl

The Hornets now have a 5-0 record on the season and will clinch the first winning season since 1997 with their next win.

By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

What’s the difference between a 5-0 team and an 0-5 team?

In the rugged Ches-Mont League, on some Friday nights, the difference can be as thin as one single play.

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“We essentially made one more play than they did tonight,” said Oxford head coach Mike Pietlock after the Hornets defeated Octorara, 41-34, in overtime last Friday night to improve to 5-0 on the season.

Oxford running back Musty Mahmud darted ten yards on the first play of overtime to put the Hornets ahead, 41-34, after the team rallied to tied the score late in the fourth quarter. The Braves got their chance to start at the 10, but after quarterback Alex Gooden ran for eight yards on first down, they couldn’t punch the ball in for the touchdown. The game ended on an incomplete pass.

There was little about the first quarter that would suggest that an overtime thriller was in the offing.

Oxford took the opening kickoff and started a 19-play drive that would take up all but 33 seconds

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 of the first quarter. The 57-yard drive wasn’t textbook and it wasn’t very pretty to watch, but it’s hard for a drive to be more effective than one that takes up more than 11 minutes and results in a touchdown. Oxford quarterback Ethan Herb followed a wall of blockers into the end zone to cap the drive with a one-yard run. The extra point made it 7-0.

Pietlock said that even though the opening drive was a fruitful one, he didn’t feel like the team was sharp as they slowly marched down the field in three- or four-yard increments.

“I felt like we lacked focus and we were slow getting out of the huddle,” he said. “We weren’t ready to play.”

The Hornets’ first major mistake came early in the second quarter when a high snap on a punt attempt gave Octorara the ball on Oxford’s 16. The Braves capitalized when Gooden scored from two yards out. The extra point by kicker Nate Reynolds tied the score at 7-7.

That’s when things got wild.

Oxford committed another turnover, fumbling the ball away. Gooden connected with wide receiver Terrel Thompson on a 55-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 2:08 left to play.

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It took Oxford two plays to answer back. Quarterback Ethan Herb completed a 15-yard pass to Ryan Hubley to move the ball to the 45. On the next play, Herb found wide receiver Cameron Williams open down the field and Williams raced 55 yards for the score.

With a good, old-fashioned shootout underway, Octorara quickly scored again. This time, Gooden found Nick Robinson open for a 28-yard touchdown.

Herb and the Hornets answered right back when he threw a 56-yard touchdown to Hubley along the right sideline. The extra point tied the game at 21-21.

The offensive outburst didn’t stop once the second half got underway. Octorara continued to mix runs by Corey Cooper and Malik Norris. Gooden was as much of a force with his legs as his arm. Norris rumbled 43 yards to move the ball deep into Oxford territory. Gooden eluded tacklers to complete a 12-yard pass. Nice gains by Cooper and Norris moved the ball to inside the 1. That’s when Octorara put in offensive lineman Vincent Walls to push the ball over the goal line. Oxford managed to block the extra point to make it 27-21. The Braves made that lead stand up until the fourth quarter.

It was the combination of Herb and Hubley that tied the score—this time the pass play was for 36 yards.

On Octorara’s next possession, Gooden picked up 36 yards on two carries and Cooper ran for 

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17 more. The Braves moved inside the 10, but soon they were facing a fourth-and-goal from the six. Gooden found Thompson for a 6-yard score to make it 34-27 with just 6:10 left to play.

Oxford’s next drive started near midfield but the Hornets’ drive was stymied by two costly penalties. It was a recurring theme throughout the game.

“We were not disciplined tonight and that was disappointing,” Pietlock said.

The Hornets were forced to punt the ball away, giving Octorara the chance to seal the victory with a scoring drive.

The Braves’ drive started at the 20.  A penalty on Octorara backed the ball up to the 15. Gooden picked up two yards. Next, he handed the ball off to Cooper who went for 7 yards. Following an Oxford timeout, the Hornets were hit with an encroachment penalty to turn a third-and-seven into a much more manageable third-and-two. Gooden called his own number, but he could only pick up one yard.

Oxford called another timeout to stop the clock while Octorara considered the options on fourth-and-one from their own 30. The safe play was to punt the ball away and force the Hornets’ offense to go the length of the field to tie the score. But if the Braves could convert the fourth-and-one, they would most likely be able to run out the clock and seal the team's first win of the season. Octorara opted to line up for a punt. The Hornets were ready when the Braves decided to fake the punt. Octorara put the ball in Gooden’s hands and the QB looked for room to run. Safety Tyler Combs stopped Gooden before he could pick up the first down. Knowing that he was short, Gooden did everything he could to gain extra yardage and ended up fumbling the football. Devon Sumner picked the ball up and raced into the end zone to tie the game at 34-34.

Each team’s offense got one more chance in regulation, but couldn’t score.

After the coin flip, Oxford got the ball first. Pietlock said that it was an obvious choice to call Mahmud’s number in such a critical situation.

“We felt pretty confident with the stuff that we’ve been running,” he said. “That’s one of our bread-and-butter plays. We didn’t expect that it would go for ten yards in that situation, but…”

Octorara got a chance to tie the score, but an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the four gave the Hornets the hard-fought win.

Pietlock credited his wide receivers with turning in a good game.

“I’ve said before that we have the three best receivers in the league. Tonight, it was Ryan’s turn,” the coach said.

Hubley caught 5 balls for 121 yards.

Pietlock described Hubley as a “born football player” who is willing to do whatever he’s asked, whether that's working hard in practice or in the weight room.

“He’s the kind of player where he deserves everything that he gets because he works so hard,” Pietlock said.

Pietlock also praised Herb for keeping his composure and leading Oxford to quick scores after Octorara put points on the board. Herb completed 11 passes for 204 yards during the game.

“Ethan does not get flustered,” he said. “He has that confidence about him. He makes plays.”

The victory improved Oxford’s record to 5-0, but penalties and mental errors made it the Hornets’ most difficult game of the season. The loss dropped the Braves to 0-5, but the performance was the team’s best so far in 2013.

The two teams combined for 700 yards of offense, and it was evenly split.

The Oxford coach said that he wasn't surprised that Octorara gave them a tough game.

“Jed {King) does a good job of coaching his team,” Pietlock said.

Pietlock added that he’s going to continue to insist that his team take it one game at a time.

“This is uncharted territory for us,” Pietlock said. “We’re going to keep level heads. We have five wins. The next step is six. We have to keep our eyes on that. We have Rustin coming to town next week, and that’s it.”

Oxford hosts Bayard Rustin, also 5-0, on Friday night at 7 p.m. Octorara travels to play Sun Valley on Friday.