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Chargers start up against unfamiliar foe in Southaven

Oxford coach Johnny Hill got some help from close by this week as the Chargers prepare to open the season against a team they hardly ever see.

The Chargers have spent the past handful of years taking on Grenada or, most recently, Jackson Prep to usher in a new campaign. But Friday, it will be Southaven, a Class 6A opponent from the metro Memphis area.

Southaven made the trip to Oxford last week to play Lafayette in a preseason jamboree, falling to the Commodores, 10-9. Hill talked to Lafayette coach Eric Robertson afterward for some tips.

“I was trying to get some feedback from him,” Hill said. “He told me some things he thought we might could exploit.”

What Hill and his team have learned is Southaven has young talent despite losing a lot of experienced pieces off a team that went 11-3 and advanced to the second round of the 6A playoffs before falling to a loaded Starkville squad. One of those talented pieces for Southaven on offense is Matthew Martin, who is slated to take over as a multi-faceted playmaker at quarterback.

“The quarterback is a really good athlete,” Hill said. “He’s a run threat as well as a throwing threat. They lost of lot of seniors last year, so they’re kind of young in a lot of places. They’re good, but they’re still young.”

Southaven’s defense is multiple, Hill said, with the ability to quickly transition into a 4-3 look out of its base 3-3 stack. From the film Hill has seen on Southaven, Oxford’s offense will have to be ready to handle pressure out of any defensive look it gets — “They try to slip a guy off the weak-side edge a good bit,” Hill said — but with a senior quarterback who’s seen just about everything from opposing defenses over the past couple of seasons in Jack Abraham, Hill said his offense should be well-equipped to handle it.

“We practice (blitz pick-ups) every day,” Hill said. “I think we’re going to be able to pick it up most of the time and be aware of what’s going on.”

What Southaven lacks in experience, it will make up for with a sound scheme and having its players in the right place at the right time, Hill said. The Chargers will have to be equally as sound in their execution if they want to get off to a winning start.

(Southaven coach Ed Rich) is going to throw some looks at you, and if you don’t adjust to it, he will take advantage of it,” Hill said. “A good challenge, and it’ll be a good game for both of us to see where we’re at and if we’ve improved from our jamboree game and those mistakes out. It ought to be a good football game.”

Cousar, Fair back

Senior tight end Zach Cousar and senior linebacker Dee Fair returned to practice this week after being held out of last week’s jamboree against Charleston with minor injuries. Both starters are expected to play, though Hill wasn’t sure how much.

Running back/wide receiver Hiram Wadlington didn’t play in the jamboree and is “still questionable,” Hill said.

“We had several out last Friday, and we should be a little closer to full strength right now,” Hill said.