Oxford’s varsity football squad put a giant exclamation point at the end of its regular season Friday night.
The Wildcats stomped Troy Athens 35-0.
What a difference a year makes.
Last year, Oxford finished the season 2-7.
This year, the team is 7-2 and heading into the playoffs.
Oxford’s dramatic turnaround shocked many, but not Head Coach Bud Rowley.
“I’m not surprised one bit,” he said. “I knew this was a good group. I knew they wanted to play and win. You could just feel that and see that (during) the off-season. They’ve pretty much done what I expected.”
Rowley said the team, which went 4-2 in league play this year, started preparing for the 2018 season “two days” after the 2017 season ended.
“They busted butt in the weight room all winter, all spring, all summer,” he said. “They’ve been all in, all year . . . ‘All in’ is our (motto), and by God, it’s paid off.”
Senior Trent Myre was the first to score against Athens with an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
About a minute later, Oxford’s Matthew Pullman intercepted an Athens’ pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Late in the second quarter, senior Caleb Tabert scored Oxford’s third touchdown on a 38-yard run.
The Cats went into halftime with a commanding 21-0 lead.
Quarterback Drew Carpenter was on fire during the third quarter. He scored a touchdown on a 36-yard run, then threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior Liam Hillary.
Oxford dominated in offensive yardage, racking up 352 yards in 36 plays. Athens accumulated 154 yards in 54 plays.
Carpenter led the Wildcats in rushing with 129 yards on 10 carries. He was followed by Myre, who rushed for 88 yards on two carries, and Tabert, who contributed 74 yards on seven carries.
On the defensive side, Oxford senior Samuel Barrott recorded four solo tackles and four assists. He was followed by senior Thomas Wandrie, who racked up five solo tackles and one assist. Seniors Jerome Roberson, Marcus Hufnagel and Evan Brunning each had three solo tackles and one assist.
Oxford’s seniors were honored at Friday’s game. Rowley praised their exemplary leadership abilities, strong work ethic and positive attitude. He said the seniors have been the key to this season’s success.
“It’s the seniors – end of story,” Rowley said. “They have just risen to the challenge . . . They believe in each other.”
Oxford will start the playoffs by facing Davison at home on Friday, Oct. 26. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Davison is 7-2 overall and 5-1 in league play.
Rowley said his players and coaches “have nothing but high expectations for the next five weeks.”
“They’re rolling,” he said. “We’re just going to continue what we’ve been doing and that’s (coming) early, (staying) late.”