The Yellow Jackets, unranked in Class 6A, dominated the Tigers 35-23 in a non-region showdown at Lamar Field.
Oxford (3-2) bagged career victory No. 100 for Grass while handing Auburn (4-1) its first regular-season defeat since a loss to Opelika on Oct. 26, 2007.
“It’s great. You’ll remember this one forever, no doubt,” Grass said. “I’m proud of the kids tonight. They did an excellent job. We had a good game plan in, and they played really well.”
Grass improved his career mark to 100-52 over 13-plus seasons.
He was named Class 6A coach of the year for 2007, his final season at Spain Park, but his first two Oxford teams suffered first-round playoff losses despite being the higher-seeded team.
Grass entered this season widely believed to be under pressure to have a breakthrough season. His 100th career victory came in one of Oxford’s best showings against a highly ranked 6A team in recent memory.
Oxford principal Trey Holladay said the school will give Grass “a little token of appreciation” this week.
“We’re extremely excited for Coach Grass and glad it happened while his tenure is at Oxford,” Holladay said. “Hopefully, he’s going to have a lot more wins at Oxford.”
As big a victory as Friday’s game was for Grass, it was bigger for Oxford.
The Yellow Jackets faced a brutal schedule through the first half of this season, including losses to 6A powers Carrollton (Ga.) and Gadsden City. They’ve won three games in a row, having outscored their opponents 98-31 since falling behind to 19-7 late in the second quarter against Clay-Chalkville.
While the victory against Auburn came in a non-region game, it could be the shot of confidence the Yellow Jackets need down the road.
“Early in the year, everybody was down on us after our 0-2 start,” tight end Trenton Jones said. “Coming into this game, everybody thought we were going to get it handed to us, pretty much, and we just showed the state that Oxford’s back, and we’re ready to play.”
Clearly, Oxford was ready to play Friday.
Oxford came in with a plan to challenge Auburn’s secondary, and quarterback Jackson Stephens hit on 17 of 22 passes for 293 yards. He completed touchdown passes of 72 and 26 yards to Trae Elston, both in the first half.
Stephens hit on 10 of 12 passes for 232 yards in the first half.
The Yellow Jackets also got 103 rushing yards from Gary Mason Jr., all in the second half, and Coty Spurling rushed for touchdowns of 5, 5 and 3 yards en route to 54 yards on the night.
Oxford caught a quick break when Auburn quarterback Cameron Echols fumbled on the Tigers’ first possession. The Yellow Jackets took over on Auburn’s 7-yard line, and Spurling scored two plays later.
After a three-and-out for Auburn, Stephens went deep on Oxford’s next play from scrimmage. Elston stopped and jumped to catch the ball, then went right and won a footrace to the goal line to complete the 72-yard play.
“That second touchdown was going by the script,” Stephens said. “We were going to start off throwing the ball deep on them, and Trae made a great ball play.”
Stephens capped Oxford’s next possession with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Elston, and Auburn was down 21-0 with 3.2 seconds left in the first quarter.
Echols came back with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tamarcus Warren, but Spurling’s second 5-yard touchdown run made it 28-7, Oxford, at 5:18 of the second quarter.
Auburn had its best run from there, taking its next drive 71 yards for a score. Warren’s 43-yard run on fourth down and 2 set up a 1-yard Marcus Harris run to make it 28-14 at 2:07 of the second quarter.
Two plays later, JaMichael Payne pressured Stephens into an intentional-grounding penalty from the end zone for a safety to bring Auburn within 28-16, which is where it stood at halftime.
Deion Anderson ended Oxford’s first possession of the third quarter with an interception at the Auburn 1-yard line, but the Tigers couldn’t get past midfield.
Oxford took over and drove 69 yards, leading to Spurling’s third touchdown run at 35.1 seconds of the third quarter.
Echols added a 40-yard touchdown pass to Desmond Purter-Reese in the fourth quarter and finished with 134 yards in total offense, 114 on 5-for-10 passing.
“We were always behind,” Auburn coach Jason Halverson said. “We actually got a little bit of offense going in the second quarter, but we didn’t touch the ball much in the second half. I think we only had three touches and scored once.
“It’s a team effort. I just don’t think we played with a lot of heart tonight, but they had a good game plan and got after us.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com or 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @Jomedstar.