The Yellow Jackets got in the win column Friday night by shutting out rival Gadsden City 6-0.
“There’s no better way to get one than a shutout,” said Herring, an Oxford graduate. “As a defensive coach, there’s nothing better than a shutout. It doesn’t matter who you play, but especially when you’re playing a good region rival.
“I wish we would have put up more points, but as long as we outscored them is all that really matters to me.”
Oxford held the Titans to just 62 yards and three first downs in the second half. However, Oxford only had three downs, as well.
And while both offenses struggled because of strong defense, Oxford (1-2, 1-1 in Class 6A, Region 7) needed only one big play to take the lead.
Oxford quarterback Ty Webber and receiver Tredarian Gamble hooked up for a 49-yard touchdown pass, providing the game’s only points.
The winning drive began with 8:41 to play in the third quarter.
Webber and Gamble got it started with an 18-yard strike on the first play. Six plays later, and Oxford had the ball at the the Titans’ 49-yard line.
Webber looked to Gamble again, this time on a screen pass. Following the catch, Gamble used multiple blocks to get to the middle of the field before cutting it back to the Oxford sideline.
Once Gamble hit the outside, Gadsden City only could try to keep up.
“He’s a playmaker,” Herring said. “It’s like I’ve said, no one has better hands than him. And when he gets the ball in his hands, he usually makes a play. He just does a great job catching the ball and taking it outside.”
From that point on, the Yellow Jackets depended on their defense, but ended up icing the game with special teams.
Following a bad snap on third-and-four late in the fourth that moved the Yellow Jackets back from the 21-yard line to the 9, Webber, who also punts for the Yellow Jackets, was roughed during the kick. A 15-yard penalty moved Oxford to within a yard of the first down.
On the next play, Gadsden City ran into Webber for a second time, which earned Oxford the first down with just more than a minute left in the game.
“It’s frustrating, but if you notice, the last punt went about eight yards. We thought we got a hand on it,” Gadsden City coach Matt Scott said. “We may not have, but I thought we did. We went for it both times. When you have a zero on the board you have to do something.”
But although it was offense that gave Oxford its winning touchdown and special teams that iced it, defense is what truly won the battle.
Middle linebacker Josh Snow said Herring told the unit all week to not allow big plays. After the touchdown, Gadsden City’s largest gain was a 15-yard pass. However, the Titans nearly connected for what would have been a 37-yard touchdown pass, but the ball was dropped.
While the defense didn’t allow big plays, the game came down to stopping the Titans (1-2, 1-1) from driving throughout the fourth quarter.
“We just couldn’t give up,” Snow said. “We learned last week that you can’t give up so we just kept doing our jobs.”
Early in the fourth, Gadsden City converted fourth-and-one and later a fourth-and-seven play. However, the third time was the charm for the Yellow Jackets. Four plays after the fourth-and-seven conversion, the Titans found themselves in the same situation. This time quarterback Sloan Tyler’s pass was incomplete.
Gadsden City’s ensuing drive lasted only three plays. It would also be its last.
“It’s huge because over the last two games they’ve understand that we’ve played good defense, but there were about seven plays that were big plays,” Herring said. “No one has really driven it down our throat. We wanted to make them drive down the field and beat us to score and we kind of did that tonight.”
Tyler led Gadsden City’s offense, completing 14 of 19 passes for 74 yards, hitting Dazun Lindsey three times in the second half for 22 yards. Dante Rudolph led the Titans on the ground, racking up 51 yards on 17 carries.
Oxford tailback Racean Thomas only carried the ball six times for 7 yards after injuring his ankle last week. Herring said Thomas was only “50 percent.”
Webber completed 6 of 17 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Gamble had all six receptions. Desmon Owens had 17 yards on five carries.
Both teams continue region play next week at home as Oxford faces Huntsville and Gadsden City battles Albertville.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star