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BLOG: Oxford rallies past Gators for opening-round win

Oxford withstood an initial onslaught from Vicksburg and started its quest to play in a third straight MHSAA Class 5A state title game with a 35-21 victory over the Gators in the opening round of the playoffs Friday at Bobby Holcomb Field.

The Chargers (10-2) trailed by two touchdowns early in the second quarter but scored 28 unanswered points the rest of the way to advance to host Germantown this Friday.

Oxford running back Hiram Wadlington ran for 103 of his 142 yards and both of his touchdowns in the second half, his 1-yard scamper on fourth down putting the Chargers ahead for good with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Quarterback Jack Abraham threw for 318 yards and two scores while tight end Zach Cousar, moonlighting as a tailback at times, also ran for a touchdown.

Oxford needed all of their contributions to stay close to Vicksburg (6-6) early. The Gators stretched Oxford from sideline to sideline to rip off some long gainers in the run game, and quarterback Joe Johnson took advantage of some one-on-one matchups out wide to stun the Chargers and their fans with touchdown passes to Ta’Darius Brown and Raheem Moore to put Vicksburg up 21-7 with 10:36 left in the second quarter.

But the Chargers got a lift from their special teams when Jimmy Greaser blocked a punt on the Gators’ next possession, and Cousar was in the end zone on a 1-yard run five plays later to cut into Vicksburg’s lead. Oxford again forced a punt two possessions later, but Greg Hayden couldn’t corral the low snap and lost control of the ball with Kent Hickinbottom pouncing on the loose ball to give Oxford another short field at Vicksburg’s 28-yard line.

The Chargers cashed it in with Abraham’s 6-yard touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf to make it a new game at the half.

Linebacker Jack Turner set up Wadlington’s go-ahead score with an interception of Johnson on Vicksburg’s second possession of the third quarter, and Marcel Pegues’ strip sack of Johnson on the Gators’ next possession set up Wadlington’s 3-yard scoring run to give Oxford the two-touchdown lead with 11:03 remaining.

Johnson was sacked two times and picked off twice in the second half. Vicksburg mustered just 38 yards in the final two quarters after racking up 248 before halftime.