Coming off losses to Clay-Chalkville and Gadsden City in the season’s second and third weeks, the Yellow Jackets came from behind twice to beat previously undefeated Huntsville 38-21 at Lamar Field.
Oxford running back Racean Thomas carried 27 times for 238 yards and four touchdowns, and quarterback Ty Webber ran up 155 total yards and two scores as Oxford (2-2, 1-2 region) rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 21-19 to record its first region victory this season.
“I feel good just to get a region win,” Oxford coach John Grass said. “Our backs are against the wall in the region. We need to win out to ensure our life in the playoffs.”
Oxford, which lost several key players from its 6A semifinal team of 2011, opened with a 21-17 victory at Carrollton, Ga., but lost close games against No. 2 Clay-Chalkville (25-16) and No. 8 Gadsden City (28-21).
Thanks to a misplayed sky kick, the Yellow Jackets fell behind 14-0 on Deonte Moore touchdown runs of five and two yards before seeing their first offensive possession.
The sky kick after the game’s opening possession landed behind the front line of Oxford’s kick-return team, and no one played it.
“We were just trying to keep the ball away from number six,” Huntsville coach Scott Sharp said, referring to Thomas. “We just got a fortunate break and a good kick, and we got off to a good start.”
Oxford also overcame botched extra points on every attempt but one — two coming because of bad snaps — plus a punt snap over Thomas’ head that set up a Huntsville touchdown. The Yellow Jackets lost long snapper Jared Shake for the season after he sustained a knee injury in the Gadsden City game.
But Thomas wound up with touchdown runs of 46 and 23 yards and two 1-yarders. Three of his touchdowns came in the second half.
Webber bolted for a 44-yard touchdown run early and a 4-yarder and finished with 87 yards on 11 rushes.
“He was doing a great job, just kind of trying to get their eyes off of me,” Thomas said.
The Yellow Jackets also came up with two big turnovers — a Terry Mason interception early in the third quarter and Damere Martin’s fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter. Both set up touchdowns to help Oxford battle back from a 14-13 deficit at halftime.
“They played like an undefeated team in the first half, and we just didn’t play ball in the first half,” Grass said. “It didn’t look like we were playing with the same intensity that we had, but we did in the second half.”
The game got tense early in the third quarter, and offsetting deadball fouls led to ejections for Oxford defensive lineman Darrius Rogers and Huntsville offensive lineman Josiah Pavlic. Both ejections will lead to fines of up to $200, and both players must complete an online sportsmanship course to play next week.
Oxford finished with 418 total yards, 350 on the ground.
Moore led Huntsville’s rushing attack, gaining 81 of his 88 yards in the first half, and Charles Hicklen hit on 10 of 23 passes for 96 yards. Still, Huntsville gained just 238 total yards, 61 in the second half.
“I was proud of our team, how we battled back, and we faced a lot of adversity,” Grass said. “We found a way to win.”
Oxford will play a non-region at home against Florence next week, then play four consecutive region games against Lee, Grissom, Albertville and Pell City.
“It was a big night for us,” Webber said. “We needed a win. We were ready to come out here and get a big win, and God was with us tonight.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.