PINSON — Zaylen McCray nailed a 32-yard field goal at the end of an 80-yard Pinson Valley drive that took almost 10 minutes in the third quarter, put the home team up by 25 and snuffed out hopes of an Oxford comeback.
The Yellow Jackets, who were No. 1 in Class 6A at the end of the regular season, saw their season end with a 34-2 loss at Pinson Valley in the state quarterfinals.
The Indians also scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter. For Oxford, four interceptions, a fumble and 13 penalties for 113 yards doomed any hopes of advancing. Instead, Pinson Valley will face Mountain Brook next week in the semifinals.
"A lot of bad things happened to us, and it just kind of steamrolled from there," Oxford coach Keith Etheredge said. "We got to attack from the very first play and we did not do that."
The first half was a disaster for the Yellow Jackets as the offense made mistake after mistake and turned over the ball three times. They also missed a field goal, had an interception in the red zone and were stopped one other time inside the 20-yard line of Pinson Valley.
The scoring got going for Pinson Valley as the Indians recovered a fumbled punt return at the Oxford 8-yard line. Two plays later, Kenji Christian took it into the end zone from 6 yards out.
Alabama commit Koolaid McKinstry hauled in a 25-yard scoring pass from Pinson Valley quarterback Zack Pyron early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-0.
One play later, Oxford had a pass intercepted at its own 25, and Jaylen Crenshaw sprinted into the end zone for a 21-0 Pinson Valley lead.
Oxford had its chances as it picked up a safety when the Indians center snapped the ball out of the end zone. Two ensuing drives ended up with an interception and a stop on fourth down.
The Indians scored on a 34-yard field goal on the last play of the half and took a 24-2 lead into the dressing room.
What to know
—The last three state champions have come from the winner of this game: Pinson Valley in 2017 and 2018 and Oxford in 2019.
—Oxford's Trey Higgins was intercepted only four times this season before Friday night, but matched that against Pinson Valley. Higgins completed 6 of 27 passes for 125 yards. The Yellow Jackets were held to a season-low 182 total yards.
Pinson Valley mustered only 232 total yards and 65 of those yards were on one running play that did not score.
Pinson Valley’s McKinstry shut down Oxford's Roc Taylor, holding him without a catch on the night.
—Etheredge on the loss: “I am so proud of these guys and the seniors and what they did the last two years.”
—Etheredge on Pinson Valley's McKinstry: "Koolaid is a great player. He played over the top on Roc and shut off the short pass and had enough speed to stay with him deep.”
—Oxford goes into the off-season with an 11-2 record. The Yellow Jackets lost their opener, won 11 straight and fell Friday night.