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Chargers fight off Grenada in season opener

By Jared Redding

GRENADA  — It wasn’t always easy, but the Oxford Chargers figured out a few key questions to begin 2020.

The Chargers began their 6A state title defense with a 37-20 victory over the Grenada Chargers at Charger Stadium on Friday. In an attempt to establish new playmakers on both sides of the ball, Oxford (1-0) found early success and continued on through the rest of the night.

“A lot of new faces for sure, I’m proud of how they played,” said OHS head coach Chris Cutcliffe. “We played a lot of people, kept guys fresh. It was really nice to see a lot of guys get in and do their role well… It should pay dividends down the road.”

Junior Michael Harvey and sophomore Trip Maxwell each took snaps at quarterback. Harvey got the nod to start, but each threw a touchdown pass in the first half. Maxwell threw his first varsity touchdown pass to Trynten Brannon near the goal line while Harvey connected with Jay Wortham on 4th and 2 late in the first half from 37 yards out and again to seal the game from 27
yards out.

“He’s an example of one of those guys who’s a senior and had to sit behind a lot of good people last year,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s did what he had to do when his number was called.”

On the ground, Omar Howell had two touchdowns on the ground. Howell nearly had three scores before fumbling the football on the one yard line during the game’s first drive. His early production set the tone early on, eventually leading to a 16-0 lead late in the first quarter.

“[Howell] ran behind his pads well,” Cutcliffe said. “We did really good up front and it set the tone. It hit a low for a little while in the second half, then we picked it up again.”

A largely inexperienced Charger defense was tasked with defending dual threat Grenada quarterback Joshua Phillips. They surrendered a 47 yard drive following a special teams gaffe and a 81-yard touchdown run late in the first half. Phillips again proved to be a problem in the second half, controlling time of possession and wearing down Oxford on defense. In the end, they made key stops when they needed to.

“We gave up too many big plays, but there were a lot of positives too,” Cutcliffe said. “We had guys out there for the first time learning. Experience is the best teacher, especially against a team like Grenada.”

Keegan Wilfawn recovered two fumbles, including a botched punt snap late in the first half to allow Oxford to extend their lead. Xavier Walton was also able to record his first varsity interception during the second quarter.

Next Friday, the Chargers will take part in the annual Crosstown Classic against the Lafayette Commodores at Bobby Holcomb Field. Kickoff time is set for 7:00 p.m.

“Our focus is on us,” Cutcliffe. “This year, that is more true than ever with all the uncertainty. I want to see our team improve.”