GoW: The Ground Game
Oxford and West Point are the kings of region 1-5A, there’s no doubting that. Last season they met in Oxford to determine the winner of the 5A North championship. The Chargers got that one, but the Green Wave may have more momentum, on top of home field advantage, coming into this matchup.
An area to focus on will be the ground game. I mean why not, when you have two electrifying junior tailbacks like Marcus Murphy and Hiram Wadlington on the same field. Murphy, 2018 Mississippi State commit, has played many positions, from quarterback to running back, receiver and even defensive back, in his career with the Green Wave. Wadlington is effective taking handoffs and catching passes out of the backfield for the high-powered Chris Cutcliffe offense of Oxford.
Marcus Murphy has been a difference-maker on the ground in 2016, just as he was in 2015, with 348 yards, on just 52 carries, and five touchdowns. The Green Wave are going to be a factor again in 5A this season, it appears, as they are averaging just under 185 rushing yards per game and giving up just 15 points per contest, as well. Murphy is averaging 87 yards rushing per game himself.
This past week was a bit of a breakout for Murphy, as it seemed the Green Wave offense finally began to click with Clayton Knight alongside the talented rusher in the backfield. Though Murphy tallied 99 yards on nine carried and added a score in game one against Lousville, his 152 yards on 14 carries, with five scores including one from 95 yards out, was closer to where he expects to perform. A season ago Murphy rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 games, with a high of 214 in a win against New Hope.
While the Green Wave offense began to click this past week, Oxford has already flashed just how good they can a few times already this season. However, they have had trouble maintaining that impressive level.
First-year starter JR McClure has had to throw a good bit at times due to trailing in games. Meanwhile, Hiram Wadlington has yet to really get going as he did as season ago. However, he did heat up as the season went on. Expect him to get better as this season goes on, as well.
In his most recent game, a loss to rival Lafayette, he did go over 100 yards for the second time this season. He has 353 yards on 4.3 yard per carry with three scores on the year. He is averaging 88 of Oxford’s 96 yards per game on the ground. With better play from the offensive line, especially in the second half, Wadlington is likely to take off.
Expect Wadlington to step up in this big game. Looking back to his two games against West Point in 2015, he scored three touchdowns. Cutcliffe and the rest of the Chargers are hoping that streak continues into this season.
West Point’s passing game can be greatly effective if their running game is working well. So it is crucial that they get it going. For Oxford, the story is similar. The running game being going can really make things easier for McClure. He’s shown that when the Chargers are balance he is much more dangerous.
**Oxford photo by Keith Warren of the MHSAA.
**West Point photo by Thomas Brown.