Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe doesn’t want to start in division play after 0-2 hole like his team had to battle through last year.
Oxford lost to Southaven at home last season 23-13 in a game that ultimately helped decide both team’s playoff fate. Southaven made the playoffs while Oxford ended up at home.
For the past five weeks, Oxford has been trying to get better each week and Cutcliffe believes his team is playing its best so far heading into Division 1-6A play.
“We’ve been building up to division play for weeks now,” Cutcliffe said. “We talked about it a lot about the goal is to be playing as well as we can play when we get here and we’re here. I think we’ve had it on our minds that this is the ultimate goal. Now we are 0-0 again like we talked about last Friday after the game. Now everything really counts every time we take the field.”
No statistics are posted on Maxpreps for Southaven, so there aren’t any notable key players, but Cutcliffe said on film that there things that have stood out.
“They don’t list statistics online, you can’t just look at that in particular,” Cutcliffe said. “One thing for sure overall is their team speed. They’re one of the faster teams we will play all season particularly in the secondary. Those guys in the secondary can all really run. That’s been typical the last couple of years that we’ve play them.”
Southaven’s offense according to Cutcliffe is similar to what Oxford saw against Pontotoc last week where they are much more of a 50-50 run-to-pass team.
“They’re very balanced,” Cutcliffe said. “I think that’s one of the first things that stands out is how balanced they are. They do a good job of making you defend the whole field. That’s certainly a challenge. We faced a balanced attack last week in Pontotoc and I think we have a similar matchup this week in Southaven.”
Defensively, Southaven goes with four down lineman look, but their back seven is more variable, making their defense complex.
“They’re a four-man front,” Cutcliffe said. “They do a good job of some different personal packages and some different coverage combinations that they run. They do some different things that you have to prepare for their defense.”
In the last two contests, Oxford has won the special teams battle by a lot. Among other things, Oxford has already blocked two punts this season, provided two takeaways, and they’ve helped the Oxford offense with field position, averaging just a few yards short of their opponents territory at the start of every Oxford offensive possession. At the same time, opponent’s repeatedly have started around their own 20-yard line thanks to the kicking of Jack Tannehill.
“We go into every game hoping to make a difference hoping to make an impact in the game with our special teams unit,” Cutcliffe said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to execute at a high level. Jack has been really consistent. We’ve had a lot of guys buy in to doing their job and doing their role on special teams and making really big plays. We forced some turnovers on special teams last week. It is hard to do week in and week out, but we’ve had a blocked punt a couple times. We’ve had some nice returns. Our kicking game with Jack Tannehill has been outstanding. Whitman Rowland long-snapping has been very consistent. Hopefully our special teams will continue to execute to keep that good field position.”
The road team has won the last two contests, with Oxford winning a non-divisional game two years ago 26-20, which was also Cutcliffe’s first career head coaching win. The game can be heard on the radio on 95.5 FM. Kickoff at Southaven High School is set for 7:00 p.m.