• John Macon Gillespie

Games That Left Their Mark | The Charger Chapters

If you don’t know me personally, I am an Oxford native, a track athlete, a sports editor, and the biggest fan of Oxford Charger football. It all started when my oldest brother, Jonathan, joined the varsity football squad in his sophomore year in 2008. Prior to that, I really didn't know all that much about football, let alone watched it.

I remember the 2008 opener like it was yesterday, not really the game itself, but just the atmosphere. Something about being at Bobby Holcomb Field, smelling the burgers cook on the grill, being under the lights, sitting with family, listening to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins in pregame over the PA, eating Reese's, and listening to the band play made me have an instant love for watching the Chargers on Friday nights.

In my nine years of watching the Chargers play, I’ve missed a total of four games from 2008-2016. In games that I’ve witnessed, my record is 81-32. Of the 81 games I’ve watched the Chargers win, six of those really stuck out to me. Here is one of those wins that I will remember for a while.

Oxford at Starkville 2013

In a huge home win against MAIS power Jackson Prep, I saw a lot of young players like Jack Abraham and D.K. Metcalf play like they were playing in their senior year.

The young Chargers as a whole looked solid. While that’s nice and all, another huge game awaited them, a trip to the defending 5A state champion Starkville. The Yellowjackets put out Oxford the previous season when they were in 5A, this year, they moved back up to 6A. This year, a dormant rivalry was revived and “The Little Egg Bowl” was born. A golden egg trophy like the actual Egg Bowl trophy was given to the winner.

Jack Abraham, who eventually went on to be SES Mr. Elite, Gatorade Player of the Year, and have numerous accolades, started in his first varsity road game.

I remember making the trip with a broken right arm that I suffered the week before. I looked at the Jackets in warmups and thinking we don't stand a chance. This game was the definition of a tale of two halves, you will see later.

Abraham threw two first half interceptions, one of which was returned for a Jacket TD. Starkville led 17-7 at the break. I remember looking at the scoreboard and said “Things are very good right now… Dad! I need a Reese’s!” You wonder why I eat a Reese’s? Well, because good things will happen, just like they did in the second half of that game.

On the opening possession of the 3rd quarter, I remember looking out on the field and seeing a No. 25 Oxford jersey in the backfield. That No. 25, who was a sophomore at the time, busted loose for a 60-yard touchdown on Oxford’s sideline to cut the Starkville lead to three. My dad asked me what his name was, and I honestly didn't have an answer for him because I didn't know. This was one of the very few times between 2008 and today where I had to literally pull up Oxford’s roster on MaxPreps and figure out who one of our players were. The running back’s name was Kenzie Phillips, I have remembered his name since.

The game was all the sudden Oxford’s to lose. Abraham was on fire in the second half, throwing three touchdowns, including one TD play that pretty much summed up the game in a nutshell. Somewhere in the 4th quarter, the Chargers were faced with 4th and INCHES from Starkville’s 20 yard line. John Madden would've ran the ball right there, Oxford head coach Johnny Hill had other ideas. Abraham was in shotgun formation. Starkville’s DBs were in press coverage. Oxford WR Glenn Gordan beat the DB off the line of scrimmage and Abraham threw downfield to him for a touchdown. The reactions from the fans said it all. Gordon was on his knees in the end zone thanking God while his teammates where surrounding him bumping and celebrating. I remember looking at Starkville’s sideline and seeing “surrendering cobra” poses, coaches on their knees, headsets being thrown on the turf like they've lost on a hail mary or something like that.

D.K. Metcalf made a game sealing interception and the Chargers left Starkville with a 35-24 win in the inaugural Little Egg Bowl. For the record, they broke the trophy shortly after getting their hands on it. I didn't care. All I cared about is that we won against the defending 5A champion. Many Oxford players grew up that night. Abraham started out shaky and straightened things out in the second half, Kenzie Phillips had his coming out party, and a young Charger squad found a way to win in a hostile environment. I personally didn't think there was anyway that the Chargers could win it…I was wrong.

#JaredRedding #Oxford #ChargerChapters

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