Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Oxford’s youthful players and veteran coach are having a really good time and playing very good football.
The Chargers, led by some talented sophomores, took advantage of six turnovers by Jackson Callaway on Friday night for a 23-7 win to clinch the MHSAA Class 5A North championship.
“We’re really young, and have a great mixture of guys,” said Oxford’s Johnny Hill, who has been coaching for 38 years and is leading his first 14-0 squad. “We’re still having fun and it’s a blast now.”
Kenzie Phillips ran for two touchdowns, fellow sophomore Jack Abraham passed for another, and senior Cody Mills made a 27-yard field goal for Oxford, which will face Picayune in the state championship next Saturday in Jackson.
Picayune’s Maroon Tide defeated Laurel 35-28 to win the South state championship.
“If you look at us, we’re pretty balanced,” Hill said. “We run about as much as we throw. If you want to load up and stop the pass, then we’ll run it.”
Phillips scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter, then dove in from 4 yards out for the final score with 7 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the fourth.
“The offensive line came out blocking and we went down there and got the yards when we needed it,” said Phillips, who rushed for 101 yards on 25 carries. “We’re ready to take the next step and keep on going.”
Callaway’s only score was set up by a punt return by Ronald Walker, an Ole Miss commit, from midfield to Oxford’s 1. TJ Washington ran in two plays later to trim it to 14-7 with 7:06 in the third.
Callaway (14-1) couldn’t get any traction after that, turning it over on four of its next five possessions to end the game. Oxford’s Korbin Harmon recovered a fumble and Mark Pegues and JR Anderson picked off passes to secure the win.
“You can’t turn the football over on a team like this,” said Callaway coach Daryl Jones. “Without those turnovers, we would have been in a little better shape. They had an outstanding game plan though.”