Oxford grinds out win over Romeo in season opener
OXFORD – One drive was the difference.
The host Oxford Wildcats used a 20-play, 10-minute drive that took up practically the entire third quarter and was finished off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by senior quarterback Glacier Wallington to seize momentum in their Oakland County-Macomb County grudge match against Romeo Friday night and never look back.
Wallington’s scoring-run, followed by a Noah Groves extra-point, gave Oxford a lead (21-14) it wouldn’t relinquish, providing the host Wildcats with some breathing room and all the momentum they needed to walk away with the 28-20 win on opening-night.
“It’s all about senior leadership,” said Wallington of the victory. “We owned the game late and that’s why we won. It’s an amazing victory to open the season with. I’m just loving it.”
Because they are both schools located in the northern part of Metro Detroit, with Oxford in Oakland County and Romeo in Macomb County, Friday night’s nip-and-tuck affair could prove be a preview of a future early-round playoff game later this fall.
A four-year starter under center, Wallington accounted for three of his club’s four touchdowns – his 12-yard bootleg made it 7-0 and his 26-yard connection with tight end Will Horne made it 14-7.
Romeo junior quarterback Paul Hurley threw three touchdowns on the evening, completing 17-of-23 passes for 225 yards. His scoring tosses to junior wide receiver Brad Tanner (50 yards) and tight end Mitch Heimbuch (34 yards) in the first half tied things at 14-14 heading into the locker room for intermission.
Hurley’s 12-yard touchdown strike to senior Trevor Atkinson with 10:20 to go in the fourth quarter placed the Bulldogs on the doorstep of knotting the game for the third straight time, but a missed extra point kept Oxford on top 21-20.
That Romeo touchdown came on the heels of the time-consuming Wildcats scoring drive to end the third, which saw Oxford run 20 straight rushing plays.
“The drive they mounted in the third quarter took a little wind out of our sails,” admitted Romeo co-coach Jason Couch. “That was a long time for our defense to be out on the field and our offense to be sitting on the sideline.”
Couch knew it’s typical Bud Rowley-coached Oxford football.
“There were no surprises, that’s what they do and we knew it and we still didn’t stop it,” he said.
Clinging to their one-point advantage, the Wildcats continued to stuff the ball down their opponents’ throats and closed out the night’s touchdown barrage with a 27-yard scamper by senior workhorse tailback Scott Stubenrauch at the 3:45 mark.
Carrying the ball 23 times, Stubenbach made a living between the tackles and accumulated a career-high and game-high 124 yards on the ground.
Stubenbach and Wallington, best buds off the gridiron, then handed the reins to the Oxford defense and let them shut the door.
Wildcats’ senior linebacker Matt Harris came up with his third sack of the game – all of the bone-crushing variety – and Romeo never made it to midfield on any ensuing drives of its own to threaten.