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Oxford defeats Tupelo for first 1-6A region title

TUPELO — What a difference two years makes.

In 2017, the Oxford Chargers came to Golden Wave Stadium trying to backdoor their way into their first Class 6A playoff appearance, but a Tupelo victory derailed things.

On Friday, it was a different story as Oxford defeated Tupelo 14-3 to clinch their first Class 6A region championship and first region title since 2015.

“I’m so proud of our senior group. I think we have really special group of seniors,” said Oxford head coach Chris Cutcliffe. “A lot of good football players, but more importantly a lot of good leaders, and I think a really close group that plays for each other.”

Oxford (10-1, 7-0 1-6A) controlled the game from the start, but several missed opportunities in the first half forced them to play from behind most of the first half.

Two missed field goals from 45 and 41 yards out by Jack Tannehill cost the Chargers the opportunity for an early 6-3 lead. Instead, Tupelo (7-4, 5-2) held a slim 3-0 lead most of the first half due to a 32-yard field goal by Tanner Goggans midway through the first quarter.

Senior JJ Pegues did not touch the ball often, but when he did, they were game changing plays. Pegues had two touchdown runs of 11 and 54 yards, respectively. The first came with less than four minutes remaining in the first half to give Oxford essentially the game-winning touchdown. Pegues’ third-quarter touchdown run provided the winning margin.

Pegues finished with 90 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

“What won’t show up on the stat sheet was how well he blocked throughout the night and sprung a lot of our other big runs,” Cutcliffe said.

Senior quarterback John Meagher had a solid night on the ground, rushing for 132 yards on 17 carries. He went 4-of-6, for 19 yards through the air.

A key turning point of the game came in the third quarter, when Tupelo attempted a fake punt on 4th and inches near midfield on the opening drive of the second half. The Golden Wave failed to convert – their first failed fake punt attempt this season. Two plays later, Pegues broke free for his 54-yard touchdown pass.

“I thought that was a huge play,” Cutcliffe said. “Those are game-changing plays one way or the other when those happens. So, I was happy proud of our guys being ready for it, being alert for it and stepping up and making the play.”

Tupelo entered Friday’s game averaging 175 rushing yards per game, but were held to 55 yards by Oxford’s defense.

With the win, Oxford secured the No. 1 seed out of 1-6A and will host a first round playoff game next week against Warren Central.