As the calendar rolls over into August, the Oxford Chargers’ athletic program will no longer be playing in District 5A as every sport will now move up to 6A; the highest level of athletic competition in the state of Mississippi.
On Monday, HottyToddy.com got the chance to sit down with the Charger’s head football coach Chris Cutcliffe to discuss the new adventure that his team is about to embark on.
Over the past few seasons, the coaches knew the jump to 6A was on the horizon as they started to prepare for the day to come. Cutcliffe knows that the preparation they have put in will pay off when the season begins.
“Our scheduling over the past 4-6 years has dictated that as we have tried to play a lot of 6A opponents and just tried to prepare ourselves for the move,” Cutcliffe said. “I think our guys are confident as they have played against that competition in non-district regular season games over the past couple of years.”
With the added level of competition in 6A, Cutcliffe’s message to his team has been simple.
“Each and every week we know that you have to come to play,” Cutcliffe said. “With the margin of error being that much smaller in 6A.”
The Chargers have several skill players returning from last year’s team that should help lead the blue in gold on the field this season. The Charger’s 2016 season ended with an 8-5 overall record and a 5-2 district record.
“Our returning linebackers are a really solid group led by (senior) Quentin Wilfawn and several other seniors in that group,” Cutcliffe said. “We expect a lot out of them, they have had a great off season. I expect them to lead and do a great job.
“In the secondary, we have a lot of seniors that will be playing. CJ Terrell and some other guys there will play a lot. We certainly have expectations for the seniors on defense that are back. Offensively we have a lot of our skill players back (running back) Hiram Wadlington, JaQaun Webb returning at receiver, along with some talented tight-ends coming back and it will be good having a returning quarterback.”
Webb has really shined on the gridiron as a wide receiver for the Chargers through out his career.
“I think he has progressed tremendously every year,” Cutcliffe said. “I think he has made a big jump from last season unto now. He did a lot of great things for us last year, but the things he did in the last six months have been fun to watch. Webb puts in a lot of extra work outside of what we ask him to do. I think it is paying off for him you will see that out on the field this fall.“
While the Chargers may have returning starters at some of the skill positions, Cutcliffe knows one group that will need to grow up quickly before the season starts.
“The place that we are inexperienced at returning is our offensive line. We have four new starters, and we are excited about those guys and what all they have shown, but they haven’t been really thrown in the fire so to speak yet we will be watching those guys closely,” Cutcliffe said.
Prior to the start of the regular season the Chargers will play in the annual football jamboree against Charleston. The jamboree is a scrimmage that won’t contribute to the team’s record, but Cutcliffe is looking forward to seeing his players compete against other schools to gauge the progress that they will have made by then.
“These next two weeks we are focused on the Oxford Chargers and our fundamentals and all the little things we need to do well to be successful,” Cutcliffe said. ”The jamboree is a great opportunity to line up across from somebody and see what you have got. This allows you to evaluate some individual players and do some things you want to take a look at in live scenarios. It helps us look at certain players and plays on the field, but the biggest thing is to get out on the field against somebody else and get the butterflies out a bit and get ready to roll before starting the non-district schedule.”
The Oxford Chargers open the 2017 regular season on August 18 at Vicksburg. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.