Oxford hits the road again, this time to Madison Central

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

After last Friday’s game ended and Oxford was staring at a third straight loss to Class 6A powerhouse Starkville, head coach Chris Cutcliffe knew there were things that needed to be fixed immediatly.

The sense of urgency was due to not getting a break in their schedule with a third 6A opponent awaiting them in as many weeks.

For the second time in three weeks, Oxford (1-1), ranked No. 4 in this week’s Class 5A rankings, must hit the road and travel Interstate 55 to a hostile environment. This week, it is Madison Central (7 p.m., 95.5 FM).

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Last year, the two teams squared off at Bobby Holcomb Field with Madison Central edging out the Chargers for a 31-29 victory.

Both teams are coming off losses, as the Jaguars (1-1) fell to No. 1 Brandon at home last weekend.

The Chargers struggled on both sides of the ball last week against Starkville, particularly on third-down situations. They gave up more than 200 yards to the Yellowjackets on third-down plays alone.

Offensively, Oxford went 1-for-13 on third downs.

“I think we’ve had a good week so far,” Cutcliffe said of his team’s preparation. “The emphasis this week has kind of been the defense getting off the field on third down and the offense staying on the field on third down. We’ve tried to creat some competitive situations at practice with our offense versus defense on third down.”

Cutcliffe credited Starkville for their ability to convert third downs and force Oxford off the field but also admitted there were tackling issues on the Chargers’ end defensively.

Familiar challenge
Cutcliffe and the Chargers’ offense are going to be facing a Madison Central defense that will resemble their crosstown rival Lafayette’s from a season ago.

That is because former Commodore head coach Eric Robertson left Lafayette in the spring to take a job as the defensive coordinator for the Jaguars.

Cutcliffe’s familiarity does not date back to facing Lafayette over the past few years but all the way back to his years as a player. Robertson was the defensive coordinator at Oxford when Cutcliffe was quarterback for the Chargers.

“We’re pretty familiar with them, and they’re pretty familiar with us,” Cutcliffe said. “I think it probably kind of works both ways. There certainly are similarities on both sides of the ball with what they did at Lafayette and what they do at Madison Central.”

That is not the only Lafayette connection as former head coach and athletic director Anthony Hart is now the head coach for Madison Central.