After beginning the season 0-2, the Yellow Jackets won their next eight games and finished second in Class 6A Region 7.
As Oxford prepares to host Tuscaloosa County (7-3) on Friday to open the state playoffs, the Yellow Jackets have the second-longest active win streak in 6A. Their eight in a row trails only Hoover, which has won 25 straight.
It is obvious something lit a fire under the Yellow Jackets. The Week 2 loss to Clay-Chalkville is the main suspect.
“The taste of defeat against Clay-Chalkville,” Oxford head coach Ryan Herring said. “Knowing that we could’ve won the game, I think, left a bad taste in their mouths.”
After securing a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter, surrendering 23 unanswered points late in the game cost the Yellow Jackets a victory.
Oxford walked out of Cougar Stadium with everything it needed for the rest of the season — motivation.
“We had a lot of things to prove,” junior quarterback Ty Webber said. “A lot of people in the community weren’t thinking that we were going to be a good team. Other teams that we were playing against didn’t think we were going to be a threat. We just had to turn that around.”
In their eight-game winning streak, the Yellow Jackets have outscored their opponents 306-122. A lot of that has to do with their defense, which managed shutouts against Gadsden City and Albertville. However, it is hard to ignore the performance of senior running back Racean Thomas, an Auburn commitment.
In the last two weeks, he has rushed for a combined 646 yards. After he injured his ankle in the Clay-Chalkville game, there were questions surrounding how quickly he would recover.
“He’s healthy,” Herring said. “I think the offense as a whole has gotten better each week. He’s always been a really good football player, real good running back. But, I think the whole offense has improved.”
Added senior guard Chance Strickland: “Everybody knows that he’s a skilled football player. He knows the game front and back and he knows how to play it. I like to think that we help out a little bit along the way. We’re getting better every week. It’s a growing process.”
Herring’s goal now is to keep his Yellow Jackets from falling victim to complacency. He will be returning them to the basics in practice this week. At this point in the season, it is not uncommon for a team to eliminate most of the physicality in practice. That is not on Herring’s agenda. He spent the first 15 minutes Monday “just going over tackling.”
“It still comes down to fundamentals,” he said. “We still can get better on just basic fundamentals.”