From having a reunion with the 1993 Class 5A Oxford state championship team and seeing former teammates he hasn’t seen in 20 years to defeating Pell City 41-20, which clinched the second seed in Class 6A, Region 7, Herring said it was a great night “from start to finish.”
However, Herring’s night didn’t end with just celebrating the win. Herring made a deal with the team earlier in the week that if Oxford won on Friday night, he’d shave his head.
“Every time we get a shutout, we shave a coach’s head,” said Herring, a member of the 1993 team. “We had one last week, but we didn’t have a razor. So I told them if we win against Pell City then we’ll shave three coaches’ heads.”
Before the razor meets Herring’s head, Oxford star tailback Racean Thomas shined brighter than he has all year.
Thomas finished with 237 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns in what Herring said was the best game Oxford has run the ball in all year.
“Roc had about the best game running the ball I’ve seen,” Herring said. “When you’ve got one of the top running backs in the country we’re going to run the ball. That’s a no-brainer.”
After Thomas had scored on runs of 10 and 28 in the first half, the two teams were tied 14-14 at halftime.
But in the third quarter, the game turned the Yellow Jackets’ way.
Oxford started the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard drive, setting the tone for what was to come.
After Thomas carried the ball six times on seven plays, Ty Webber hit his third pass of the drive, this one to Tredarian Gamble for a 21-yard touchdown.
However, Pell City responded three plays later when Jackson Williamson hit Ira Burch on a 9-yard touchdown pass. The score was set up by a big kick return by Jaylen Lipscomb.
With Oxford leading 21-20, the Yellow Jackets took over from there.
Another nine-play, 80-yard drive extended the lead after Thomas scored from 2 yards out, and a 70-yard touchdown rush by Thomas in the final 30 seconds of the quarter made it 35-20 heading into the fourth.
In the third quarter alone, Webber completed all four of his passes for 62 yards, and Thomas rushed 13 times for 108 yards.
“I don’t really think anything changed, and nothing against Pell City, but I just think we’re better conditioned,” Thomas said. “We condition on Sundays. Everyone does a great job, and coach just tells us to do our job.”
Herring said Oxford made several changes at halftime and once the defense got in a groove the game was all but over.
As far the nail in the coffin, it came when Derek Mahaffey intercepted a pass on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter, and Webber hit Dylan Sipplin for a touchdown, on the Yellow Jackets’ ensuing drive.
“The second touchdown Roc broke, you could tell momentum was swinging. When we intercepted the fake punt, everything was in our hands,” Herring said.
Webber finished the game with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-14 passing.
Oxford’s win not only clinched a home game in the first round of the playoffs, but it also extends Oxford’s winning streak to seven games.
“I don’t think words can explain how it feels,” Thomas said. “In a way it feels better than being undefeated because we’ve faced adversity and gotten passed it.
“It’s been a lot of fun with those guys on the field every game. It’s a better feeling to know everyone is giving their all and it’s great to be in the playoffs.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star