FOOTBALL: Oxford sacks Troy to earn playoffs berth
BY DAN STICKRADT
OXFORD — From a certain point of view, the prep football playoffs started a week early for both Oxford and Troy Friday evening.
Entering Week 9 with identical 5-3 records, the winner was guaranteed a spot in the postseason field. The loser would be sacked with a 5-4 record and hoping for one of the precious few at-large bids.
Glacier Wallington made sure that Oxford would not be one of those bubble teams.
After fumbling but recovering the football after an 8-yard dash on Wildcats’ 28, the sophomore quarterback found plenty of daylight two plays later for a 71-yard touchdown sprint for the go-ahead points in leading the host Wildcats to a 34-20 victory over visiting Troy in the annual OAA Crossover series between third-place teams of the OAA-White and OAA-Red divisions.
Oxford (6-3) clinched a postseason berth for the second straight season, both in the OAA, and awaits the announcement of its opponent at 6 p.m. Sunday when the MHSAA announces the postseason field.
Wallington’s touchdown came with 3:32 left in the contest. It came shortly after Troy tied the game at 20-20 with 4:45 remaining on an 11-yard run by Justin Losey.
“I was just thinking about holding onto the football and not fumbling it,” offered Wallington. “I was pretty lucky I got it back (two plays earlier).
“I thought I was slow and that someone was going to catch me (on the game-winning touchdown). I was nervous,” continued Wallington. “But no one caught me.”
With a 27-20 lead, Oxford forced the Colts to turn the ball over on downs on their own 23. The Wildcats sealed the lid on the coffin when Benjamin Line scored on a 1-yard run with 14.6 seconds left.
Line finished with 147 yards on a workhorse 35 carries. Wallington added 127 yards 10 rushes for the Wildcats.
“We just kept banging away. All night long we were just one tackle away, one hand away. We were right there on the verge all the time,” said Oxford coach Bud Rowley. “Finally with (3:32) to go we finally got a break. It’s all good. We beat a good football team in Troy. It’s not like we beat chopped liver.”
Oxford opened the scoring with a long, 80-yard drive that was capped by Zack Hadorn’s 1-yard plunge.
Troy responded with a swift five-play drive that resulted in Losey’s 2-yard run. The 96-yard drive included pass plays of 38 and 39 yards, both from Jay Darish to Losey.
The Colts took their first and only lead 4:48 to play in the second quarter when Erich Hagen booted a 26-yard field goal.
Oxford had the answer with a nine-play, 66-yard drive which ended on Line’s 2-yard run with 1:31 left in the half. The extra point was off the mark, leaving the Wildcats with a 13-10 halftime lead.
Troy tied it again when Hagen connected on his second field goal, this time from 32 yards out with 6:30 left in the third.
The Wildcats regained the lead in the wild affair with 8:13 left in the contest. Marty Giannola caught his only pass of the game for a 20-yard score.
“The just made a couple of more big plays than we did,” offered Troy coach Gary Griffith. “We needed something big to happen. We needed a chance. There was the (Wallington) fumble when the score was tied down near the (30-) yard line. We had it, but it kicked back out. After that we gave up the big plays.”
Darish finished the night 242 passing yards on a 17-for-29 performance. Losey added 66 yards on 21 carries and also caught nine catches for 107 yards, while Tommy O’Donovan had five snags for 76 yards for Troy.
With OAA-Red members Troy, Rochester and Rochester Stoney Creek all losing Friday, leaving the trio with identical 5-4 records, Griffith is unsure if any will get into the postseason field as at-large teams.
“I don’t know. I am a gym teacher and not a math guy,” he said. “If we get offered a spot we will graciously accept and go from there.”
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)