Coverage Breakdown: Oxford @ Lake Cormorant
Players to Watch:
Hiram Wadlington- Wadlington has been a force to be reckoned with in region play so far at running back. He is four yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season with 996. Wadlington has four 100 yard performances in four of his last five games. He has 10 rushing TDs on the year.
John Reece McClure- The first year starter at quarterback had probably his best performance of his career last week against Center Hill. McClure went 19-28 for 272 yards and threw four touchdowns, no turnovers. On the season, McClure is 131-233 for 2018 yards has thrown 19 touchdowns and eight picks. He and his offense will have to take care of the football against a Gator defense that has forced quite a bit of those this year
Jaquan Webb- The big play, speedy receiver has been playing well coming off of a foot injury that sidelined him for five weeks. Last week against Center Hill, Webb caught a career high two TDs while catching five passes for 93 yards. Webb has caught 10 passes for 255 yards and five touchdowns in six games played this season.
Quentin Wilfawn- He has a strong case to be the 5A defensive player of the year at linebacker with the stats he has. He leads the state in total tackles with 149 and is six tackles away from breaking the school record set by Will Britt in 2003. Wilfawn also has 11 TFLs on the year and a mind blowing 15 tackles per game.
D.Q. Thomas- The soul leader of the team, Thomas ranks second of the team behind Wilfawn with 93 tackles. Thomas has been a force in region play at safety/linebacker, also getting three interceptions and scoring two defensive touchdowns off of fumbles. Thomas and the rest of the defense will have to play at their best going up against a talented Gator offense.
Lake Cormorant Gators:
Brandon Smith- The Iowa State receiver commit has been just about every Region 1-5A defense’s worst nightmare at receiver. Smith has 59 catches for 1301 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year, Smith could also make a case for 5A offensive player of the year. He has had 100 yards receiving against four of six region opponents to far, including putting up video game numbers against Center Hill with 290 receiving yards and five TDs two weeks ago. Smith will need to have another big game against a stout Charger defense if his teams wants success.
Ben Rohrbacher- The second of two first year starting QBs in this game. Rohrbacher has completed 136 of 260 passes for 2219 yards and thrown for 22 touchdowns, 16 of those to Brandon Smith. He faces another great defense for the second straight week in Oxford.
Brian Jackson- The junior tailback has carried the rock 112 times for 1006 yards and has scored nine touchdowns on the ground. Despite Jackson having 100 yards a game the year, he has failed to rush for that much for three straight games after rushing for 254 against New Hope. He will have to step up if the Chargers shut down the Gators passing game.
Jalen Jordan- He leads the Gators in tackles with 121 and has 11 tackles per game at safety. Jordan had a season high last week against Clarksdale last week with 15 tackles. He also has a pick and a fumble recovery as well this year.
Ladarrius Rule- The senior linebacker has 98 tackles on the year and has also been pretty disruptive in the other team’s backfield, getting 6.5 sacks. He and the Gator defense are going to have to get stops against a Charger offense that has been hot in region play since losing to West Point in the region opener.
Keys to the Game:
Can Oxford take care of the football? The execution has been getting better and better each week for the Chargers on offense, but one turnover can turn the game upside down. McClure threw three interceptions against Southaven that put the Chargers in a hole late in third quarter, fortunately they responded to adversity and fought back to win. Against West Point, the Chargers had a 8-7 lead in the third quarter, then when they turned the ball over, the momentum carried West Point to a 22-8 win. Oxford turnovers produced some drama at Clarksdale two weeks ago, but the Charger D made sure that Clarksdale couldn't capitalize. Turnovers create momentum, and momentum is huge in this critical Region 1-5A showdown.
Can Oxford contain Brandon Smith? Oxford had D.K. Metcalf giving opposing defenses headaches the last three years. This year, it is Lake Cormorant who has the elite receiver in the region with 1301 receiving yards. Smith is a huge part of the Gator’s offense. The Chargers have been impressive on defense all the season long. They were able keep a good group of receivers from New Hope in check, now the Chargers face probably the best receiver on their schedule. Oxford’s secondary should be looking out for the No. 2 jersey all night.
Can Lake Cormorant put up points on Oxford’s D? As mentioned before, this is a strong and pretty consistent Oxford defense. And Lake Cormorant has an impressive offense, but they have been inconsistent at times this year. The Gators have to find a way to score consistently against Oxford if they want to win.
Can Lake Cormorant play four quarters? Lake Cormorant has never beaten Oxford since the high school was established in 2009. Despite the seven year losing streak, the Gators have came out of the gates rolling in the last two meetings. in 2014, despite a dreadful 0-10 campaign at the time, they scored on a long QB keeper to tie the region champion Chargers at seven early in the ball game. The Chargers scored and scored and their defense created turnovers to ensure that Lake Cormorant was beat in the first half. Last season, the Gators had a much improved bunch from the previous season and were once again up against the region champion Chargers. The Gators recovered an Oxford fumble on the opening kickoff and scored right off the bat. The game was pretty much a foot race in the first half, but key stops by the Chargers and capitalization put the game away later on the game. If Lake Cormorant were to do that again, they need to answer the call when needed to, when things get bad for them.
Who wants it more? Both teams may have punched their ticket to postseason play, but there is more at stake in this game than some people may realize. The winner of this game will clinch the No. 2 seed which means that they would host the first round of the playoffs and play the No. 3 seed from Region 2-5A. The loser of this game would have the No. 3 seed and would have to travel to the No. 2 seed in Region 2-5A to open the playoffs. Home field advantage can be huge in the playoffs, plus, both teams can have a lot of things to work on to prepare themselves for the playoffs.
Brandon Smith has been phenomenal this year, and surely he will want that phenomenal season to continue on senior night. If Oxford can’t contain him, they should have a ton of success against Oxford. If Oxford keeps Brandon Smith in check, the Gators may be in trouble.
**Photo by Oxford High Sports Productions.