October 17, 2012 - One win and they're in.
Mitchell Tilley tries to run around Oak Park’s defender after catching the ball. Photo by Dan Shriner (click for larger version)
The Oxford Wildcats' state playoff hopes are very much alive and well after Coach Bud Rowley's team shocked previously undefeated Oak Park, 14-12 on Friday night.
The Wildcats now must defeat Troy in an OAA crossover game on Friday at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium to get to six wins and the guaranteed state playoff berth. Oxford could still qualify for the state playoffs with five wins but it is not certain.
Both Troy and Oxford sport 5-3 overall records, so that sixth win is important to both programs.
"This was a huge win," Rowley said. "We played very well and had to win this game. Our seniors stepped up tonight. We know what we have to do next week and we will be ready."
Senior Zack Hadorn led the Wildcats from his fullback position with some punishing blocks and runs. On defense he disrupted the powerful Oak Park offense, even temporarily knocking the Knights' quarterback out with a punishing hit.
Oak Park had shown a powerful offense through most of its games this season but Oxford's defense held the Knights to only three first downs on 31 yards rushing and 12 yards passing in the first half.
Oxford's Ben Line got the first score of the game, a seven yard run with 3:40 left in the first quarter. Josh Nelson then kicked the first of his two conversions, which eventually proved to be the winning margin.
Oak Park came right back following Line's TD with an 89-yard kickoff return. The Knights' point after kick was wide and Oxford led, 7-6.
Oxford's defense thwarted Oak Park in the second quarter and produced big plays at the right time. Senior Brennen Orr grabbed an interception in the quarter to stop one Knight drive.
With time running out in the first half, Oxford put on a drive that included an 11-yard pass from quarterback Glacier Wallington to Marty Giannola down to the eight yard line.
Ben Line then ran the final eight yards with only eight seconds left in the half. Nelson's PAT gave the Wildcats a 14-6 lead at the half.
Oak Park came back early in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard TD run with 10:03 left in the game. The Knights went for two points to try to tie the game but were not successful.
The Wildcats then went on a time-consuming drive that lasted 14 plays and ran more than seven minutes off the clock. The drive eventually ended when Wallington's long pass was intercepted in the end zone.
The Wildcat defense did the rest and Oak Park never mounted any kind of late threat.
Oxford finished with 17 first downs to 11 for the Knights. Line finished with 27 rushes for 118 yards and both TDs. Hadorn had 40 yards rushing and also had a big reception to keep a drive moving. He was a solid force on defense.
Wallington was 5-for-10 passing for 57 yards and played a solid game at cornerback on defense.
Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.