Coverage Recap: Oxford 21 | Vicksburg 6
Defense dominated at Viking Stadium. The Oxford Chargers did just enough offensively to leave Vicksburg with a 21-6 season opening victory over the Gators in the 2017 Red Carpet Bowl. This game followed the same narrative that a lot of week one games follow: Penalties, penalties, and more penalties. The X-Factor given for this game’s preview was in fact penalties, and Vicksburg had more than Oxford did. Thanks to a solid run game, a outstanding defensive performance, and a cleaner game, the Chargers got the W.
The game was delayed for about 25 minutes due to a thunderstorm in the area. There was a good bit of rain that followed. That didn’t dampen the feel before kickoff. You could just feel the excitement in the air, Friday night football was back in the state of Mississippi. Vicksburg won the toss and elected to receive the football to begin the game.
The Gators and Chargers were stopped on each of their opening offensive possessions with three-and-outs. On Vicksburg’s second offensive series, they were forced to punt the ball away. Vicksburg punter Greg Hayden couldn’t handle the bad snap and the Chargers were left with prime field position on the Gator 25 yard line. Two plays later, Oxford quarterback John Reece McClure found his tailback Hiram Wadlington on a wheel route and placed the ball perfectly in his hands for a 20 yard touchdown strike. The score was 7-0 Oxford with 7:47 in the first quarter.
Ever since that touchdown by Wadlington, both defenses swarmed to the ball, sideline to sideline. Neither offense could find their footing for the rest of the first half. If Joe Johnson and company couldn't get things going, they needed their defense to rise to the occasion. That’s exactly what happened late in the first half when McClure rolled to his right and tried to hook up with DeDe Pegues on the sideline. Jamal Jefferson stepped in front of the pass, picked the pass and beat McClure in a foot race to the end zone for a Gator touchdown. Several illegal procedures followed and the Gators decided to go for two points and the lead. Johnson was heavily pressured and was forced to throw the ball away. The Gator defense cracked open the door, but they still trailed the Chargers 7-6 with three minutes left in the first half.
It was a very violent first half, both teams were getting big hits, most of them from Oxford corner Gregory Millner. Both teams had their fair share of small offensive miscues such as dropped passes, penalties, and blown blocking assignments. The field was looking more and more brown. The turf was fading fast.
When the Chargers came out of the locker room, it was clear that they made some big adjustments offensively. They moved the ball effortlessly down the field thanks to a healthy dose of running and a Gator personal foul penalty. McClure threw it up to his 6’2 target Jaquan Webb, who was covered one-on-one in the end zone, and Webb won the battle. The 25 yard touchdown catch extended Oxford’s lead to 14-6 with 8:59 in the third quarter.
After the Chargers ended the offensive drought, the Gators began to find their footing. Johnson was finding Tyrese Wolfe, Deangelo Dixon, and Jeff Scott open in space. The Gators were threatening Oxford, advancing to Oxford’s 16 yard line. Johnson tried to pull off what McClure did with Webb, going over the top with a fade route. C.J. Terrell, who was in the perfect position tipped the ball and caught the ball up against his leg, and came down with a huge interception.
Right after the turnover, the Chargers made a mistake with a low snap to Gray Jenkins on a punt and gave the Gators what the Gators gave Oxford early in the first quarter and that is great field position. Vicksburg couldn’t capitalize off the Charger miscue, turning the ball over on downs inside Oxford’s red zone.
The Chargers had the ball with 6:06 left in the game up 14-6, all there was left to do was to let Hiram Wadlington put the game away. He did just that, averaging about seven yards per carry on that drive, and punching in a seven yard score to put the game out of Vicksburg’s reach. The score was 21-6 with 2:06 left to play. A couple minutes later, the Chargers were hoisting the Red Carpet Bowl Trophy in front of their fans who made the three hour trip south to see them.
Oxford will travel to Starkville next week to take on the Yellowjackets in the fifth annual Little Egg Bowl. Vicksburg will host the Clinton Arrows next week.
SES Player of the Game:
Oxford - RB Hiram Wadlington