On Friday night, the #7 Oxford Yellow Jackets are traveling to play the #9 Hartselle Tigers at the J.P. Cain Stadium. Both teams are two of the top teams in Class 6A and look to face off in a non-region game.
Oxford comes into the game with a 5-0 record and a 3-0 record in Class 6A, Region 6. Oxford is coming off a 40-6 road win against Pinson Valley. Oxford is averaging 40.4 points per game this season.
Quarterback Mason Mims leads the Yellow Jackets offense and has a lot of great players around him. "He is a better version of all the great things he was last season," said Yellow Jackets head coach Sam Adams. "Physically, Mason is so much bigger and stronger. With his arm strength, he can make a few more throws than he could last season. He has done a great job distributing the ball and understanding the weapons around him." For the season, Mims has completed 81-of-115 passes for 1,157 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.
The two Oxford running backs are having a good season for the Yellow Jackets. Jaydon Thomas and DK Wilson are different running backs that bring various problems to defenses. "Jaydon is more of the power style that can run through an arm tackle," added Adams. "DK can make a guy miss and has good top-end speed. He is more of a home run hitter. Jaydon can get the dirty yards if we need them. Both catch the football very well out of the backfield. They both have well-rounded skill sets."
The receiving core has Camare Hampton, Jayden Lewis, Judd Syer, and Nick Richardson. Against McAdory, Richardson had over 200 receiving yards. Against Huntsville, Hampton had around 200 receiving yards. Wilson had a big game against Shades Valley. Last week, Thomas had a big game. The Oxford offense has done a great job of spreading the football.
The Oxford offense line has developed each week and continues to get better. Tackle Rashad Cunningham is a four-year starter. Markevion Conley, Jayden Young, Kevin Wheat, Jayden Beck, and Andrew Kirkland round out the offensive line. "We struggled to run the ball consistently the first couple weeks of the season," said Adams. "Rashad has a lot of experience and is big for us. Kevin has been the most consistent for us. A potent blocker that moves people around. Jayden is doing a great job of communicating at center. Jayden is a small kid who plays well in space, and Andrew is a physical presence. He is going to get better and better with each rep. He has played well and has all the physical tools to be a hard worker."
The Oxford defense has only given up 9.6 points per game. Sophomore Keenan Britt is a two-year starter and leader of the Yellow Jackets defense. "The number of tackles he has made from the defensive line spot is unbelievable," said Adams. "Keenan has a high motor and is a leader on the team. He hasn't scratched the surface; he will be a player down the road. He has done a great job of learning our scheme. He has come a long way with that. He is coming off two great games for us." With Britt are Caleb Tinner and Keylan Moore. Britt leads the team with 53 tackles, five tackles for loss, and three sacks on the season.
The inside linebackers are James Tapley and Hudson Gilman, two-way players on the baseball team. Des Whitson and freshman Jiyez Fleming lead the outside linebacker and are the least experienced on defense. Thomas can move over from offense if Fleming needs a break for a few plays. "Both guys look the part, but it has been a growing process for them sometimes in each game."
Cedric Twyman, Darrell Gooden, Latreveon Figgers, and Syer round out the secondary. Twyman has moved from corner to safety this season. Gooden has been banged up a little bit. Figgers is a team captain but plays with great effort. Cristian Gibson is another good corner that is having a good season.
Hartselle is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Class 6A, Region 7, and is coming off a comeback win over Gadsden City last week. Hartselle has a four-game winning streak after their opening-day loss to Austin.
The Hartselle offense averages over 33 points per game but took a big blow when quarterback Landon Blackwood went out of the game in the second quarter against Gadsden City. In comes wide receiver Noah Lee, who led the Tigers on the comeback last week. Blackwood is a big weapon for the Tigers offense, though. This season, he has completed 54-of-83 passes for 621 yards and six touchdowns. At receiver, Lee has 16 receptions for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers will need to lean more on running backs Ri Fletcher and Lincoln Bryant. Fletcher can make the big play anytime for the Tigers. Both of those running backs combine for over 600 yards of offense. Fullback Marcus Hagemann makes a good blocking back.
With Lee moving to quarterback, Brady Holt will get the start. Marcus Tapscott and Jayden Morris will round out the receiving core for the Tigers. Tapscott is a big target, standing at 6-foot-6.
The offensive line of Nolan Carroll, Elliot Hawes, Ben Arp, Harrison Tapscott, and Jayden Shekell will need to play big against Oxford defensive lineman Britt.
The defense is having another solid season for the Tigers. Defensive linemen Andrew Carroll, Christian Baulding, Auburn Hearring, and Porter Simmons. Simmons does a great job getting to the quarterback and can stuff the run with the best of them. He has excellent speed for his size and gets to the ball quickly with his speed and power.
The linebackers are Jack Haynes and Justin Metz. Baseball standout Peyton Steele leads the secondary. Saban Witt, Tripp Reed, and Drake Borden get playing time for the Tigers secondary.
"Oxford can run the football with two electric backs," said Tigers head coach Bryan Moore on his coaches show. "They are going to throw the ball around. They have a SEC quarterback, the best I've see since we have been here. He reminds me of the Briarwood quarterback (Clemson Christopher Vizzina). He is just that talented. It is a great challenge. Scheduling this game, I didn't know they had a SEC quarterback but it is going to be a good challenge for our football team. They are good upfront. They play really hard."
The question in this game will be if the Hartselle defense can stand up to the Oxford offense, where the Tigers don't have to get in an offensive shootout in this game.