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CLOSING TIME: Chargers aim for perfect region mark on Senior Night

The game may have lost some of its importance for Oxford, but Thursday night’s regular-season finale against Lake Cormorant still has special meaning as the Chargers attempt to go undefeated in Region 1-5A.

It will be Senior Night for 30 Charger players as well as the final regular-season home game for coach Johnny Hill.

“They’re a very special group,” Hill said. “I couldn’t think of a better team to go out with than this bunch. They’re talented and they play hard and they don’t quit. This is kind of a signature group that you want to go out with as a coach. They’re good guys.”

In Hill’s 40 years of coaching, he is not sure if he has seen a more talented group of seniors, especially on the offensive side of the ball, from quarterback Jack Abraham to receivers D.K. Metcalf, Ken Presley and Jimmy Greaser to tight end Zach Cousar all the way to center Colton Skidmore. The Chargers have produced two straight MHSAA Class 5A North Half championships, and they are looking for a three-peat.

All thanks to the offensive power.

“From your line to your receivers to your backs, they’re just a special group and a lot of fun,” Hill said.

A lot has changed since Oxford (8-2, 6-0 Region 1-5A) traveled to Lake Cormorant at the end of last season. The Gators were winless on the year and not very competitive. Jump ahead nearly 365 days, and they are 7-4 overall and 4-2 in region play.

Before Lake Cormorant’s 21-19 loss to Clarksdale, this week’s matchup was going to be for the region title.

“Unbelievable,” Hill said of the Gators’ turnaround. “They’re very, very good. They’re very dangerous.”

Junior quarterback Will Guest took over for Bailey Walker and has filled those shoes well. Guess has thrown for more than 2,100 yards in 11 games and has 21 touchdowns. Junior Anthony Hayes handles the run game and has rushed for 1,244 yards and 10 touchdowns while senior Benny Benson has 680 yards on the ground as well as 10 touchdowns.

“It’s almost like playing us,” Hill said. “Their line is really good. Their backs are good. (Guest) does a great job, and they’re wide open. They probably run the ball a little more than we do, but they do have the capability of throwing.”

It is a lot of the same talent from a year ago but another year of experience as the taste of a winless season motivated coach Nick Nester’s squad for the 2015 campaign.

“They’re the same group of guys, but they’re going to be trouble in our region next year,” Hill said. “They’ve got a lot of sophomores and starting a lot of juniors. It goes back to I think those kids were tired of losing. They figured out what they were doing wasn’t it, so they changed their whole thing and what they’re doing now, they’re good at.”

The game does not have any implications for the 5A playoffs that begin next week. Oxford wrapped up the No. 1 seed last week, and Lake Cormorant will either be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed depending on what Clarksdale does against Center Hill.

Mother Nature interferes
Oxford announced Monday the game was moved up to Thursday night due to the threat of inclement weather on Friday night.

The change in schedule does not affect Oxford too much. The Chargers pushed their weekly routine up a day, losing film review that is normally set for Monday and beginning their pradded practices. Today will be their walk-through.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hill said of the change. “No. 1, we’re going to catch the weather right supposedly, and that will help where we won’t be out in the rain to get kids sick and have senior day in the rain. Ain’t nothing fun about that. I was very proud of our administration for allowing us to do this.”