Oxford has allowed only 130 points this season, but 45 of those came in a loss to Starkville on Aug. 30.
The Chargers have a chance to rectify that blemish tonight, when they host the Yellowjackets in the Class 6A North final.
Since that setback, Oxford (12-1) has won 11-straight games. It has allowed 7.1 points per game during the streak.
“They’ve gotten better since we played them,” Starkville coach Chris Jones said. “They’re coached up really well, and everybody’s where they’re supposed to be at. You’ve got to make sure you take care of the football and make plays when you get a chance to make a play, because there won’t be many there.”
Blame for Oxford’s lone loss of the year does not rest solely on the defense’s shoulders. The Chargers committed four turnovers, including three interceptions thrown by John Meagher.
The senior quarterback has thrown just six interceptions since then.
“Ultimately when you look at it, it comes down to taking care of the football,” Oxford coach Chris Cutcliffe said. “That’s one of the top stats that determines wins and losses in football, is turnover margin.”
Starkville (12-2) has taken care of the ball all season. It starts with QB Luke Altmyer, who has thrown only four picks. The junior has passed for 2,885 yards and 35 touchdowns.
He has an array of weapons at his disposal, including receiver Rufus Harvey and running back Amariyon Howard.
“It’s not like it’s a one-man show to shut down,” Cutcliffe said. “They’ve got a lot of weapons that can hurt you. The balance of their offense, spreading the ball around to different players, makes them tough to defend.”
Oxford’s defense has produced 26 turnovers, including 17 interceptions. Senior Byron Pearson has recorded a school-record eight interceptions.
“We’ve got to give Luke a chance to make plays and get the ball to his playmakers,” Jones said. “The coaches are doing a good job of having a pretty good game plan to combat what they do defensively.”
Starkville is looking to reach the state championship game for the second time in three years. Oxford, which is in its third year as a 6A school, is trying to get there for the first time.