And Oxford quarterback Jackson Stephens and Coty Spurling were the power plant for Oxford’s 34-13 road win Friday night.
Stephens was 18-for-33 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Spurling, a senior, caught eight of those balls for 173 yards and a score.
The offensive showing came one week after the Jackets lost a Top 10 shootout with fifth-ranked Auburn and pleased Oxford coach John Grass.
“I’m proud of how we responded,” Oxford head coach John Grass said. “We had a good week of practice coming off a non-region game (vs. Auburn High), and we had to play a confident and much-improved Pell City team.”
The Panthers drew to within a score in the second half Friday night, but ultimately it was the Yellow Jackets who made the plays in front of a boisterous home crowd.
“It was a great showing by the community,” Panthers coach David Shores said. “ ... “I’m just disappointed we couldn’t give them a better result.
“We’re just not at their level yet. I thought we gave great effort for four quarters, but they’ve competed at a high level, and they’re just ahead of us right now.”
Even so, Pell City (4-2, 2-2) was within striking distance as the third quarter wore on. Trailing 20-6 at halftime, the Panthers recovered a Spurling fumble on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, quickly driving 52 yards for a score.
Quarterback Austin Martin capped the drive, finding senior wideout Justin Morgan from five yards away. The point-after by Wes Fortson made it 20-13.
Another Oxford drive ended in a fumble, and the Panthers took over at their own 36. Runs by Myles Parker moved the ball deep into Oxford territory, and Pell City faced fourth-and-two at the Yellow Jacket 34.
Martin’s pass was deflected and knocked away, however. On the ensuing Yellow Jacket possession, Oxford (4-2, 3-1) an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Pell City moved the ball to the Panther 15. One play later, Racean Thomas scored from 15 yards out, and Oxford led 27-13.
It was the second time Pell City was hit with a long penalty — an Oxford touchdown drive in the second quarter was bolstered by consecutive pass interference flags against the Panthers.
Oxford opened with two quick touchdowns. The first came when Thomas gathered in a Stephens screen pass and took it 31 yards for a score on the Yellow Jackets’ fifth play from scrimmage.
“We knew they had a lot of fast guys,” said Shores. “We talked all week about wanting to make them earn everything.”
On the ensuing possession, Stephens passed to Spurling for a 70-yard score. Just like that, Oxford led 14-0.
A Yellow Jacket mistake helped Pell City grab its first points of the game — a bad snap on a punt resulted in a fumble, and the Panthers took over at the Oxford 7-yard line. Parker scored on first down, making it 14-6.
Parker finished the game as the Panthers’ offensive leader, carrying the ball 28 times for 123 yards and the touchdown. Martin passed for 80 yards and a touchdown and two picks on 11 of 19 passing.
Oxford’s best drive came in the second quarter, as the Yellow Jackets went 80 yards in 15 plays. Stephens passed to senior Demontra Elston from 7 yards out for the score that made it 20-6 with 3:45 left before halftime.
The Panthers drove inside Oxford’s 30-yard line twice in the second quarter, but stalled each time. The second, a fake punt by receiver Ira Burch, fell a yard short on fourth down.
The game’s final score came on a 31-yard pass from Stephens to Jarrius Orr, capping a 71-yard drive.
“I thought we played a pretty good game against a pretty good football team,” Grass said. “They’re going to continue to improve, and I look for them to make the playoffs in our region. I’m proud of the way we played.”
Oxford will return home to face Hewitt-Trussville Friday for homecoming.