Miscues derail Oxford in season-opening loss to No. 1 Brandon

Published 11:24 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

BRANDON — Oxford had an opportunity to insert itself into the 6A title conversation early by traveling to No. 1 Brandon in the season opener.

Unfortunately the No. 7 Chargers had too many miscues and penalties that stalled that opportunity while the Bulldogs cashed in on theirs for the 45-14 victory at Brandon High School on Friday.

The biggest story for the Chargers (0-1) was the inability to finish off promising drives outside of finding the end zone once in each half.

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“Consistently we ended drives with penalties and negative plays throughout the night,” said Oxford head coach Chris Cutcliffe. “Against a team as talented as Brandon, as well-coached and Brandon you can’t make those mistakes.”

The game started off with the look of a heavyweight fight between two teams trying to gain the upper hand early.

Neither could land major blows with the Bulldogs (1-0) having only a 6-0 lead after the opening quarter.

The knockout blow came from the Bulldogs in the final couple minutes of the second quarter courtesy of a couple special team blunders by Oxford.

When the Chargers closed the game to 9-7 after its first touchdown, a 24-yard pass by senior quarterback Mack Howard to Roman Gregory, the Bulldogs responded with a 4-play touchdown drive.

The Chargers then fumbled the ensuing kickoff return that the Bulldogs recovered and converted into six more points. A second miscue on the next kickoff return by Oxford resulted in a recovery by the Bulldogs but no further points in the half.

“Honestly, I think some uncharacteristic things for us is that when going against a really quality opponent you can’t do that,” Cutliffe said.

It was a mixed bag for Howard in his true debut with Oxford. The Utah commit completed 12 of   20 pass attempts for 112 yards and a touchdown. Howard also had one interception.

Howard did not finish the game as he was knocked out with a left shoulder injury late in the third quarter and did not return. Backup Peter Grandjean finished the game for the Chargers.

Offensively, it was a mixed bag as well with drives that moved down the field and found the end zone twice but others that went nowhere.

False start penalties doomed the Chargers all night in key drives.

Gregory finished the night with 18 carries for 94 yards and a 26-yard touchdown run. Jay Brown was the second-best rusher for the Chargers with 34 yards. The Chargers finished with 289 total yards of offense.

“We started a lot of drives well and couldn’t sustain drives,” Cutcliffe said. “We got down to the one-yard line and got stopped. We had other drives that got stopped by penalties. I think it was one of those things where if we could have sustained some of those drives and found a way to get some more points on the board we would have been alright.”

Brandon touched up the Chargers defense for 554 total yards of offense and six touchdowns. They did it with 272 yards through the air for three touchdowns and 282 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Oxford gets the chance to dust itself off and get in the win column for the first time this season when they host South Panola next Friday for its home opener at 7:30 p.m.