By Brandon Speck
SALTILLO – An onside kick was exactly what Oxford needed to stay perfect on Friday night. The Journal’s top-ranked large school beat Saltillo 31-7.
That and sophomore Kenzie Phillips. Phillips rushed for 223 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns in the Division 1-5A win.
“We had trouble in the first half with what their defense was running,” Phillips said. “We caught onto it.”
Saltillo quarterback Tyler Tollison was hurt in the second quarter and did not return. Oxford was again without receiver DK Metcalf.
Tied at 7 in the third, Oxford (6-0, 2-0) answered a Saltillo scoring drive with Cody Mills’ 34-yard field goal.
Mark Pegues got the ensuing onside kick and Phillips spun off a tackle on a 9-yard touchdown.
“We didn’t respond to adversity in the second half,” Saltillo coach Pat Byrd said.
Phillips’ 28-yard touchdown on Oxford’s next possession made it 24-7.
“He’s a war daddy,” Oxford coach Johnny Hill said. “He’s a complete back. We’re going to ride him.”
Oxford scored the only touchdown of the first half on Jack Abraham’s 4-yard pass to Zach Cousar.
The touchdown came on a short field after Saltillo punted from its 6-yard line. Sophomore Tristen Daniel replaced Tollison on the drive.
Saltillo (5-2, 1-1) overcame its own flags to tie the game in the third quarter. Daniel led a touchdown drive that started with the Tigers’ seventh procedure call. But Daniel hit Diamante Pounds for a 30-yard gain, then AJ Rye on third-and-15 to the 7. Daniel carried it the other seven yards with 8:23 left in the quarter.
Pounds finished with 60 yards on 20 carries. Kyree White caught a 7-yard touchdown from Abraham in the fourth.
“We were in good shape. Then they get the ball on the plus-side of the 50 after a long drive,” Byrd said. “Then the defense has to go right back. I thought that kind of took the wind out of us.”