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OXFORD - On a night when the Oxford High School football team had trouble doing much of anything offensively, it was their defense that rose to the occasion time and time again.
The Hornets scored on their very first play from scrimmage, a 20-yard touchdown run by Musty Mahmud after Joey Lopez made a big return on the opening kickoff of the game, and that was all they needed thanks to a superb defensive effort in Friday night’s 7-0 nonleague win over visiting Solanco.
Oxford, which is off to a perfect 3-0 overall start, has now allowed just 15 total points so far this season.
They limited the Golden Mules (0-3) to 185 total yards of offense and forced a pair of interceptions. They made numerous key stops in the second half, including one on the final drive of the game to preserve the victory.
After Oxford quarterback Ethan Herb fumbled with 2:08 remaining, Solanco had one last gasp effort to try and tie the game when they took over at their own 48-yard line. After the Golden Mules quickly picked up a first down, the Hornets defense answered the bell as they had all night, and put a stop to the drive to stay undefeated. After a key sack by Brad Way on a third down play, Solanco’s fourth-and-24 pass at its own 42 fell incomplete with 52 seconds to go.
“Our defense saved us -- there’s no doubt about it,” said Oxford coach Mike Pietlock. “We aren’t huge defensively, but our guys are aggressive and they aren’t afraid to get after it. They take pride in wearing teams down.
“Our defensive coordinator, Eric Schuibbeo, does a fantastic job and he had us ready to go tonight on that side of the ball. That’s for sure.”
Oxford’s offense struggled to the tune of 147 total yards, and they turned the ball over three times on three lost fumbles. Early on, however, they looked like they were going to light up the scoreboard.
After Mahmud’s touchdown run on their opening play from scrimmage, Oxford again appeared to score on the very first play of its next drive when Colton Turns took a 78-yard run to the house. The touchdown, though, was negated by a penalty.
“I think after those two plays our offense just thought it was going to be an early night, and they stopped playing,” said Pietlock. “Turnovers also killed us. We absolutely can’t do that in conference play starting next week.”
Mahmud led Oxford with 13 carries for 46 yards. Turns added 30 rushing yards on three carries. Herb was 3-of-9 passing for 45 yards with an interception, and he also rushed for 14 yards.
Oxford received interceptions from Lopez and Ryan Hubley as their defense frustrated Solanco quarterback Caleb Groff (4-of-15 for 16 yards) all night. Way finished with two sacks for the Hornets, and Colton Ward and Hector Rivera also added sacks.
“We came to play defensively,” said Rivera, the Hornets’ senior safety and defensive leader. “We got some big stops all game, and that kept us in it.
“I think what we are doing here is pretty great. We are 3-0, and we believe in ourselves. We think we are capable of giving anybody we play a game.”
Solanco got a tough game from junior running back Toby Kreider, who rushed for a game-high 99 yards on 21 carries. The Golden Mules have scored a total of 14 points in their three losses to start the season, but they certainly had their chances on Friday night.
They penetrated their way down to the Oxford 14-yard line with 9:02 to go in attempt to tie the game, but they came away empty handed after getting stopped on fourth down.
Late in the game the Golden Mules again had a shot when they were at midfield, but their drive stalled on fourth-and-five on an incomplete pass with 2:08 to play.
That appeared to be the game. But Oxford’s fumble on the ensuing snap gave Solanco life.
As was the case all night, the Hornets defense saved the day.
Oxford will open Ches-Mont League play next Friday at Sun Valley. They’ll carry a perfect 3-0 record into that contest. They also posted nonleague wins over both Kennard-Dale and Avon Grove.
“People forget last year we started 3-1, so we are only one game better at this point. That’s all it is,” said Pietlock. “Don’t get me wrong, it feels good to be in this position, but we are still a work in progress. We are definitely headed in the right direction though.”
Oxford 7, Solanco 0
Solanco 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Oxford 7 0 0 0 -- 7
OX-Mahmud 20 run (Boohar kick)
First downs 12 6
Yards rushing 169 102
Yards passing 16 45
Total yards 185 147
Passing 4-15-2 3-9-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 3-3
Penalties 5-60 7-40
Punts-Avg. 3-30.0 4-27.5
RUSHING - Solanco: Kreider 21-99; Rudy 10-31; Hassel 3-14; Beane 2-12; Warren 3-10; Groff 7-3. Oxford: Mahmud 13-46, TD; Turns 3-30; Herb 7-14; Way 3-12.
PASSING - Solanco: Groff 4-15, 16 yds, 2INTs. Oxford: Herb 3-9, 45 yds, INT.
RECEIVING - Solanco: Hastings 1-17; Rudy 2-3; Kreider 1-(-4). Oxford: Hubley 1-33; Lopez 1-8; Mahmud 1-4.
SACKS - Solanco: McCardell. Oxford: Way 2, Ward, Rivera.
INTERCEPTIONS - Solanco: Kreider. Oxford: Lopez, Hubley.