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Cutcliffe era begins with comeback victory over Southaven

Junior+wide+receiver+Barry+Flowers+lines+up+out+wide+before+the+snap.
Junior wide receiver Barry Flowers lines up out wide before the snap.

Junior wide receiver Barry Flowers lines up out wide before the snap.

Jared Redding

Jared Redding

Junior wide receiver Barry Flowers lines up out wide before the snap.

Jared Redding, Sports Editor

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SOUTHAVEN – For the first time since 2000, Johnny Hill was not on the sidelines coaching.  While head coach Chris Cutcliffe is the new head coach currently, his goal for his former school is nothing new, and that is winning.

The Oxford Chargers rallied from 13 points down late in the third quarter to defeat the Southaven Chargers 26-20 in their season opener.  This was the first of hopefully many victories for Cutcliffe.  His first head coaching victory was one to remember.

“You probably will never forget the first game,” Cutcliffe said about the win.

The Chargers featured a relatively new offense that only returned three starters from a year ago.  Things were not always pretty at times for the offense, but they clicked when it mattered most especially late in the game.

In John Reece McClure’s first varsity start, the majority of the night was a living and learning experience.  McClure’s experience was almost a mirror image of former Charger quarterback great Jack Abraham’s second career start in the inaugural Little Egg Bowl in 2013.  Abraham threw three interceptions (one of which was a pick six) and responded with three of his four touchdown passes in the second half to defeat (who was then) the defending 5A state champion Starkville 35-24.  Fast forward to 2016, McClure threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for Southaven touchdowns.  He answered the bell and threw a 66 yard touchdown to Demarea Burt and a 30 yard touchdown to Jaquan Webb to get the Chargers back in the game and eventually winning the game.

“I told him, as a tenth grade quarterback, starting your first year, there are going to be some times when adversity strikes and it’s really about how you respond to it.  He put that on display tonight by putting those behind him and finishing the game strong,” Cutcliffe said of his sophomore quarterback McClure.

Cutcliffe is no stranger to the quarterback position.  He quarterbacked the Chargers during their run to the school’s first state title appearance in 2003.

McClure finished the game completing 14 of his 25 passes for 228 yards and threw touchdown passes both in the second half.

Running back Hiram Wadlington picked up exactly where he left off last season.  While he may not have earned the 272 all-purpose yards that he had against Wayne County in last season’s 5A state title game, he still made some of the plays that contributed to the comeback against Southaven.  Wadlington finished with 21 carries for 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns and 140 all purpose yards.  His second touchdown was the game winning score that led to the Chargers’ victory.

Preston Perkins led Oxford in receiving with six catches for 78 yards.  Barry Flowers had three catches for 40 yards.

Oxford’s defense played as good as advertised in the offseason.  They surrendered one touchdown, a 57 yard run by Southaven’s Brandin Echols underneath a minute left in the first half.  Other than that long touchdown run, the Charger’s defense played solid, giving up only 182 yards of total offense.

“We knew that we had to give it our all,” said senior defensive back Devin Rockette.

Quentin Wilfawn led the Chargers with 16 tackles, two of those tackles were for loss.  D.Q Thomas and D.T Thompson each had 10 tackles, Thomas had two of his tackles for loss, one of those was a sack.  Jordan Carothers had nine tackles.

C.J Terrell forced Oxford’s only defensive turnovers.  Terrell had two interceptions, one underneath five minutes to go in the first half and another to end Southaven’s drive to win the game.

Extra Points

Turning Point:

After throwing his third interception and his second pick six with 2:39 left in the third quarter, McClure did not quit.  McClure’s deep 66 yard touchdown pass to Demarea Burt flipped the momentum 180 degrees to Oxford’s side of the field and it ignited the Charger’s comeback to victory.

Playmaker:

Fighting cramps did not stop Wadlington from making plays.  His stats were not eye popping, but he carried the offense when the passing game failed.  He had touchdown runs of three yards and 12 yards.

Talking Point:

“We really wanted to do it for Coach Cutcliffe because we knew that this was his first game and we didn’t want to give him doubt in taking this head coaching job because he could easily be anywhere coaching in college.  So we gave him no doubt that this is where he wants to be,” Webb said.

Notes:

  • Oxford’s new white helmets had “O Strong 11” decals on the back of them because of the devastating plane crash affecting the entire Oxford community.
  • The Chargers scored 19 unanswered points in the victory
  • Next up for the Chargers is the fourth annual Little Egg Bowl against Starkville, kickoff is set for Friday at 7:00 p.m at Bobby Holcomb Field

 

 

 

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Cutcliffe era begins with comeback victory over Southaven