By Brandon Speck
Oxford is proving itself the class of Class 5A North. Saltillo has proven to be a team that is working hard to get itself there as well.
The Tigers (5-2) lost 31-7 against Oxford – the Journal’s No. 1-ranked Large School – on Friday, but Saltillo is still on pace for its best season since 2004.
“I can’t tell you how much Pat Byrd has really improved this program here,” Oxford coach Johnny Hill said. “I still think they’re one of the better teams in our region (1-5A).”
Saltillo, 1-1 in the division, goes to Clarksdale Friday. The Tigers beat Clarksdale last season for the first time in four tries. Saltillo is also 1-3 against Center Hill, which visits in two weeks, and is winless in six-straight tries against another division favorite, West Point. The Tigers are scheduled to go there in two weeks.
Oxford (6-0, 2-0), which beat West Point last week, hosts Lewisburg on Friday.
There is also a big game in Booneville as Division 1-3A could be decided when North Pontotoc visits.
Saltillo played the second half on Friday without quarterback Tyler Tollison. Sophomore backup Tristen Daniel came in and led a tying touchdown drive in the second half.
Byrd said the problem defending Oxford is dual.
“We couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback, which puts you playing coverage, then they run the football,” Byrd said. “You wind up picking your poison and I guessed wrong. The kids played hard. I did a poor job of calling defensively.”
New No. 1
Smithville took the week off, and is now the new top Journal Small School.
The Seminoles will put their 5-1 record on the line Friday night against Coffeeville. The Pirates are 4-0 in Division 1-1A, while Smithville is 3-0.
East Webster was previously unbeaten at No. 1 until a loss to Okolona. The Chieftains move into the rankings at No. 4.