Column: Not The Same Chargers
The regular season came to a close on Thursday night in Oxford as the Chargers rolled past Lake Cormorant to finish off a perfect district run and a 9-2 overall record.
Charger quarterback Jack Abraham and company have capped off yet another district championship. In fact, Oxford is an incredible 21-0 over the past three seasons in division play. Only a couple of times in that 21 game stretch were the Chargers even remotely challenged. Cruising through the district play for them has been about as easy as it is for star wide receiver DeKaylin Metcalf to haul in one handed catches.
Now it’s playoff time again.
This is where things get interesting for the Chargers. The past two years have ended in the leagues final game. A near perfect 2013 season ended in the state title game in Jackson to Picayune High School and then the 2014 season ended in the title game again, this time in Starkville, to the Laurel Tornadoes.
So has anything changed? Why will 2015 be any different for Oxford? Same old coach with the same playmakers on offense and the same no name defense as always. There is no real reason to think that this year will end any differently than before. Right?
This is not the same Jack Abraham. Yes, he has always put up huge numbers, even in losses.
However, this season he is doing so in a near flawless way. Jack has thrown 44 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He has not taken any big sacks that hurt drives and even late in games that his team has well in hand, he is still talking to his players on the sideline about how they can be better the next time out. This season has been a business trip for him with one goal in mind.
DeKaylin Metcalf has been sensational down the stretch this season as he normally is. However, this season when the games are their biggest, Metcalf has been at his best. The past two weeks when Center Hill and Lake Cormorant would strike to make the game close, Metcalf would have some sort of
backbreaking touchdown to put the game out of reach. In the past, this has not always been the case. In the 2013 title game DK had just three catches for 27 yards and no scores. Last season versus Laurel, he had six catches for 36 yards and no scores. Now, keep in mind that he has been dealing with double and triple teams throughout his career but this season he has found a way to defeat any and all challengers.
The utility men for the Charger offense have had an amazing year. With focus on Metcalf, seniors Jimmy Greaser, Ken Presley and Zack Cousar have been a nightmare for defenses all season long. These young men make all of the catches. They take the hits across the middle and can do damage after the catch. There is not a single weak link in the Chargers passing game.
The running game began the season dealing with adversity and found relief in sophomore Drew Bianco. However, only a few games into the season the hard-nosed running back would deal with adversity of his own as an injury would sideline him not just for the remainder of the year but also for his entire career. Classmate Hiram Wadlington took up where Drew left off and has shown glimpses of greatness and of the future star he is set to become for the
The big guys up front have had their best season yet. They are the MVPs of this team because without the protection Abraham has been able to thrive in, the Charger offense would be next to nothing.
The defense has been great this season as well. They stumbled early in losses to Starkville and Madison Central but found their footing against rival Lafayette when young guns like CJ Terrell and senior Jack Turner stepped into major roles for the Chargers. The defense has been great at creating pressure and forcing turnovers. They will face some very powerful offenses in the playoffs and will need to continue to do what it is they have been doing down the stretch this season.
Those are all great reasons to believe that this is not the same Charger team that has lost the past two state title games. Star power like that should be enough to convince even the heaviest of doubters that Oxford will finally get over the hump and win it all. However, those aren’t the reasons they can win it.
Coach Johnny Hill has been roaming the Oxford sideline for a very long time. This past summer, he announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year. So this is it for him, one final run at the crown before hanging up his whistle forever. There is no greater motivation than playing for a beloved coach. The stats and the records and the rankings and the stars definitely do mean something to these kids but none of those outweigh the chance to send their coach riding off into the sunset with that golden football.
The run to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium begins next Friday night.