Top 10 Sports Storylines Around Oxford from 2019, pt. 2

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, December 25, 2019

As the year, and the decade, closes, everyone inherently takes time around the holiday season to reflect on the best, or at least the most interesting, parts of their year.

The Oxford area had quite a few high points in the year of sports in a list that was far from finalized entering the month of December. in Tuesday’s paper, the EAGLE covered numbers ten through six of a ranking of these top events. Today, the top five:

5. Louis Nash wins 500th match as coach

Oxford tennis coach Louis Nash has seen it all. He’s been the head tennis coach at Oxford for 19 years now, but he’ll be the first to joke about how he’s not from here and has coached all over. However, back in March he cleared a bar many coaches at any level of any sport won’t even come close to.

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In a 6-1 defeat over crosstown rival Lafayette, Nash won his 500th match as a coach, a remarkable achievement in a long career. However, for all the individual success, his goals are always singular.

“It means I get on the bus with a lot of great kids that are really good at what they do, and have been good for a long time,” Nash said back in March. “Does it mean more? It’s hard to say. State championships mean more.”

4. Ole Miss basketball makes first NCAA Tournament since 2015

It would be hard to look at Kermit Davis’s first season with Ole Miss basketball as anything other than an overwhelming success. Despite losing in the first round of the SEC tournament, blowing a 14-point lead in the process, Ole Miss finished the regular season with a 20-12 record, winning 10 conference games and finishing ranked No. 36 in the NET.

“As a kid you always dream about making the tournament. It takes a lot of work to get there. We’re finally in,” said Breein Tyree on making his first NCAA Tournament. “I haven’t slept since we lost to Alabama. I’ve been nervous since then.”

As an eight-seed, the Rebels would go on to lose 95-72 to Oklahoma in the first round of the tournament. It’s not the ceremonious exit Ole Miss was hoping for, but it set the stage for the Kermit Davis era in Oxford.

3. Egg Bowl meltdown leads to Matt Luke’s firing and the arrival of Lane Kiffin

So much stemmed from Elijah Moore reenacting D.K. Metcalf’s peeing dog touchdown celebration late in the fourth quarter of the 2019 Egg Bowl. Just a handful of days after ensuring Matt Luke’s future as the Ole Miss head coach, something changed in the mind of new Rebels athletic director Keith Carter over the course of Egg Bowl week and the ensuing national drama that stemmed from it.

It’s far from fair to blame Moore or say the Egg Bowl events were even related to the firing of Luke. Maybe the national backlash from the game stirred change in Carter’s mind, but maybe he would have gone on to make changes regardless. In the end, out went Luke and in comes Lane Kiffin. Love or hate the hire, there’s no way to deny Kiffin’s status as a lightning rod. He immediately put Ole Miss back in the national discussion. Now it’s time for the new Rebel coach to deliver results.

2. Lafayette girls soccer wins first 5A MHSAA State Championship

You expect state championship games to be competitive, to be close. That’s not what happened in Brandon back in February. The Lafayette girls dominated Long Beach, winning 5-1 to secure their first ever 5A MHSAA title.

“It just leaves me in awe. I’m kind of speechless,” said Lafayette senior Kaitlyn Moss, fighting through tears after the win. “We did not expect (five goals). We thought it was going to be a tough game until the final end. I was really surprised we came off with five, but I knew these girls could do it.”

One of the more awing things about that Lady Commodores team was their youth. The team’s top goal-scorer, Lucy Wilson, scored a hat trick in the championship game. She’s just a sophomore. Of the 22 girls on last season’s roster, 18 returned to play this year. It’s a team built for sustained success.

1. Oxford football wins first-ever MHSAA State Championship

The first time for everything always hits differently. When it’s done in the manner that Oxford did to secure their first-ever football state championship, it just means even a little bit more.

Trailing 21-3 at halftime to Oak Grove, it seemed over. It seemed like Oxford’s miracle run to that point was through. Then the Chargers scored 28 unanswered second half points.

It’s a team that’s been through a lot together and a senior class that experienced a lot of firsts for Oxford football in 2019. The Chargers came so close earlier this decade, losing three straight state title games from 2013 to 2015. Now, they’re champions, and no one can describe that feeling better than senior quarterback John Meagher.

“It’s incredible. We got to halftime and everyone was real down. But that’s this team in a nutshell. Everyone fights for each other to the death. There’s absolutely no selfishness. We came out on fire. It took literally everyone to get this done,” Meagher said. “We all believe in each other no matter what. We knew we were going to come out and do this. … It damn well took all of us, but we did it.”