Oxford tops Great Valley, 21-14, for big Homecoming win10/11/2021 10:12PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford football coach Mike Means had a decision to make.
With just under one minute left to play in the game and his team holding a 21-14 lead over visiting Great Valley, the Hornets were facing a fourth down near midfield. Oxford could punt the ball away and if everything went well—if the snap was good and if they got the punt off and if the coverage team did its job—the Great Valley Patriots would likely get the ball at their 25-yard line with about 50 seconds left.
Or, the Hornets could try to put the game away by faking the punt and picking up the five yards that they needed to get the first down that would allow Oxford to run out the clock. If the play came up short, Oxford would turn the ball over on downs and Great Valley would have the ball near midfield.
Ultimately, Means could make the bold choice to try to pick up the first down because his defense had done such a good job over the first 47 minutes of the game.
Moments after the game, Means explained the decision to try the fake punt. “Our defense was playing so well,” he said, “and we had an opportunity to put the game away. If we punted there, maybe we gain 25 yards of field position. We thought it was worth it to try to put the game away right there. We trust our defense in that situation.”
On the fake punt play, Oxford put the ball in the hands of running back Dom Pantalone on a direct snap. He worked his way up the field for about seven yards, good enough to secure the first down—and seal the victory for Oxford.
Pantalone’s first down was a big play in a game filled with big plays. There was no shortage of drama as these two evenly matched teams played an exciting game in front of a large Homecoming crowd in Oxford.
The first big play came on the opening kickoff when Oxford’s Luke Piskun recovered a fumble after the ball hit off a Great Valley player’s hands and bounced in the air. Oxford was set up at the 40-yard line of Great Valley. Oxford’s drive eventually stalled at the 15, but the team was able to move the ball on the ground. This would prove to be one of the most important themes of the game as Oxford rolled up 200 yards of offense on the ground.
Great Valley scored first when senior quarterback Andy Talone tossed a 54-yard touchdown to wide receiver Dylan Cave.
The Hornets responded with a 78-yard drive that featured a nice 21-yard pass play from Dustin Long to Dean Hunsicker, two receptions by Dakota Jones, and a dazzling carry by Long where he dodged at least three defenders on his way to a 14-yard gain The Hornets were hampered by four penalties during the drive, but Long eventually scored on a 6-yard run with 6 six seconds left to play in the first quarter to tie the score.
“We hurt ourselves with penalties. It was a grind-it-out type of game, and we’ve been talking about needing to figure out ways to win these types of games,” Means said.
On this night, Oxford’s ways to win centered on its rushing attack and the defense as the two teams battled for field position throughout the game.
Early in the second quarter, Oxford’s offense started in great field position and was soon deep in Great Valley territory, but the Patriots came up with a big play of their own when safety Nick Pellicciotta hauled in an interception at the five-yard line to thwart Oxford’s drive and keep the score tied.
On the next offensive series, Great Valley embarked on an 11-play drive. Facing a third-down-and long situation, Talone connected with Dylan Cave on a short pass and the wide receiver was tackled for a loss by…Oxford’s quarterback. Long was taking snaps on the defensive side and he also saw some special teams action.
Means praised Long’s willingness to step in and play defense when he already handles the quarterbacking and punting duties for the team. “His toughness is really pretty special,” Means said.
Long’s defensive play to stop Cave paid dividends when Great Valley punted away the ball. Dakota Jones caught the punt around his own 35-yard line, found some running room, cut back toward the middle of the field, and raced away. The punter was Great Valley’s last line of defense, and when Jones managed to elude that would-be tackler, he was in the clear, racing into the end zone. The extra point gave Oxford a 14-7 lead with just over four minutes to play in the second quarter.
Jones is a high-energy contributor to the Hornets, and he had what his coach called a breakout game. A few minutes after the punt return for a score, he pulled in a 56-yard catch that moved Oxford inside the 10-yard line. Time ran out on the second quarter before Oxford could score, but momentum was swinging the Hornets’ way.
Great Valley tied the score in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run, but the Hornets put together another effective, run-heavy drive that featured carries by Long and Pantalone. Hunsicker also made a nice play during the drive to haul in a pass that initially bounced off his hands. That play picked up 25 yards. Long finished the drive by tossing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jones along the right sideline. Jones made the last defender miss around the 4-yard line and raced into the end zone, giving Oxford a 21-14 lead with 1:15 left to play in the third quarter.
From that point on, Oxford’s defense took over, surrendering just two more first downs to Great Valley for the remainder of the game.
That defensive effort allowed Means to make the decision to go for the fake punt instead of punting the ball back to the Patriots’ offense with about one minute to play. And that defensive effort is a big reason why the Hornets now have a 4-3 record heading into Week 8.
Means’ decision to try to put the game away with a fake punt can’t be discounted, either. In the highly competitive Ches-Mont League, those decisions can loom large because the margin between success and failure is so small.
Means also knew that, on the fake point, he had the option of putting the ball in the hands of Pantalone. As the game progressed, Pantalone’s strong running wore down the Patriots’ defense a bit. He accounted for 81 rushing yards, and they were not easy yards.
Everyone in maroon and white was pleased to send the Oxford faithful home happy after a good win.
“It’s always great to get a win on Homecoming,” Means said.
A Hornet Homecoming
By Steven Hoffman
As the parade stepped off at 5:30 p.m. last Friday evening, all the elements of a Hornet Homecoming were in place: There were festive floats and fire trucks; a spirited performance by the Oxford Cheer Team; the local businesses were decorated with signs reading “Go Hornets!”; and maroon and white was everywhere.
The celebration seemed even more festive than usual this year, perhaps because everything had to be scaled back in consideration of the global pandemic in 2020. Spectators lined up along the parade route on Third Street and at the entrance to the school campus to watch the action. The ten members of the Homecoming Court—Claire Howell, Dakota Jones, Dean Hunsicker, Julianne Snopkowski, Payton McKim-Cozart, Evan Pechin, Seth Pearson, Gina Martinelli, Dom Pantalone and Jordan Kane—all had a featured place in the parade.
Each high school class was represented with a float that was festively decorated. This year’s theme for the floats was “Under the Sea.”
The Oxford Area High School Marching Band, after leading the Homecoming Parade through town, delivered another great performance of this year’s field show, “The Sounds of Bon Jovi.”
At halftime of the football game, Hunsicker and Martinelli were crowned the Homecoming King and Queen.
The school’s Senior Class was announced as the winner of the float contest. The Senior Class was also awarded the Spirit Stick after accumulating the most points during Spirit Week.
And then the football team delivered a victory, a nice conclusion to a week dedicated to school pride.