Young Oxford team set to take on Clay-Chalkville
by Bran Strickland
bstrickland@annistonstar.com
Sep 07, 2012 | 3576 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD — With the deep belly laugh John Grass let out after Thursday’s practice, it may go down as one of the dumbest questions he’s ever been asked.

But to avoid assumption, it was asked nonetheless.

“Of course, I’d like to spread out Clay and Gadsden on the schedule if I could,” he said, still chuckling.

Problem is, he can’t.

The scheduling process of the Alabama High School Athletic Association is the same recipe for all six classifications. Each team is given a number and each team plays a round-robin schedule throughout the season with non-region games to taste.

While the numbers 2 and 5 — the two teams’ ASWA rankings — are the numbers most fans know best, Clay-Chalkville and Oxford drew each other’s digit first. The two tangle tonight at Oxford at 7 p.m.

“I guess I’d like to play it a little later in the year,” Clay-Chalkville coach Jerry Hood said of tonight’s meeting. “… the rivalry has really taken on a life of itself.”

A latter-season meeting would better add a crescendo of excitement to the Class 6A, Region 7 schedule, where the two teams have been in the mix for region titles. And it would especially pair better with the types of games the two teams have been offering up.

For the past three years, all of Hood’s tenure, the games have been classic down-to-the-wire affairs. Three years ago, it was a 37-36 triple-overtime Oxford win. Two years ago, Oxford grabbed another close one, 29-27. Last year, the Cougars got the better of Oxford, 30-21, but were forced to forfeit the game near the season’s end due to an ineligible player.

If prep prognosticators are correct, a small serving of late-season drama could once again be on tap.

After tonight’s contest, Oxford travels to Gadsden City next week, which is the first team outside 6A’s Top 10. No other region foes are even among those receiving votes.

The lopsided degree of difficulty to Oxford’s schedule couldn’t come at a more importune time. The Jackets return only two starters on offense and four on defense. It leaves little time to grow up before the Cougars, who return the nucleus of 2011’s team, which was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time of its forfeiture of wins.

While young, it was hard to tell in Oxford’s opener. After halftime adjustments, the Yellow Jackets allowed less than 50 second-half yards to Carrollton, which was ranked No. 3 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s AAAA preseason rankings.

“You never know with a young football team,” Grass said. “I think we grew up a lot in the first half of football last week, and we hope to grow up a lot from Game 1 to Game 2.

“If we can keep the growth steady, I think we’re going to be a pretty good football team by the end of the season.”

Bran Strickland is the assistant managing editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-239-3590 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.
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