OXFORD - Oxford High School head coach Mike Pietlock hasn't seen a lot of success when it comes to the Oxford-Kennett matchup. Five years ago, when Pietlock was an assistant at Kennett, marked the last time the Hornets had a win over the Blue Demons. Each of the last three years were close wins for Kennett.
Despite being outgained in total yards by a significant amount, the Hornets won the only statistical battle that matters in the end, most points on the scoreboard, which showed in a 13-9 homecoming victory in the Ches-Mont League American Division opener, and kept the hosts perfect for the year at 4-0.
'We all really wanted to get it done for Coach,' said Oxford linebacker Patrick Winters. 'We never beaten Kennett since we were freshmen and coach Pietlock came here, so we really wanted to get the win for him tonight.'
A defensive battle from start to finish, it was the Blue Demons dominating the game at the line of scrimmage in the early going, all but eliminating the Oxford rushing attack, and leaving quarterback Ethan Herb with precious little time in the pocket. The Kennett advantage in total yards wound up at 323-110.
'Overall, I'm happy with the play of our defense tonight,' said Kennett coach Scott Green. 'We knew Herb is a good quarterback, and he can be dangerous if you give him the time. But we pressured him well all night, and even the touchdown pass came on a broken play.'
After the defense held the Hornets to a three-and-out in their first possession, the Blue Demons took over at its own 20. Three plays later, it appeared Kennett struck first blood with a 78-yard pass, but it was called back for a holing penalty. No matter, the Blue Demons still completed the 80-yard drive with a 5-yard run from Brett Rose for the early lead.
Oxford, answered right back, helped out by a 50-yard kickoff return from Cam Williams that set them up at the Kennett 25. Five plays later, Herb kept it himself, squeezing up the middle for the score, and the point after made it 7-6.
Kennett was driving once again just before the end of the half, but Oxford stopped them short of the end zone, and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Brett Rose.
'That was a big stop for us,' said Pietlock. 'We had the stops when we needed them. The yardage doesn't really matter, we won the turnover battle, and that's more important to getting the win on the scoreboard.'
Oxford had a pair of interceptions on the night, one early from Connor Hilaman, and one late and in the end zone from Devon Sumner, who leads the Hornets in picks for the season.
The game turned on a couple of plays in the third quarter. Facing a 3rd-and-16, Herb completed a pass to Williams, but Kennett stopped him short of the first down. Then on fourth- down, Herb was sent scrambling, but he found Hubley open down the left side. He pulled it in, and covered the remaining yardage for the 35-yard, go-ahead score.
'It was kind of a broken play,' said Herb. 'But the line actually created a little pocket for me to step into. We practice situations were the receiver sees a different route open, and Hubley went for it. I just let him do all the work and put the ball in his hands'
Kennett had one final push, driving to the Hornets' 15 late in the fourth. But Oxford held on a fourth-and-one, and ran out the clock for the win.
'We weren't happy with the way we played defensively in the first half, and we knew we had to pick it up if we were going to win,' said Winters. 'We knew what we needed to do, we just weren't doing it. But we all knew we were going to make that stop.'
The Blue Demons fall to 1-3 with the loss.
'It just seemed like everytime we had something going, we have a stupid penalty that would take us back, like back-to-back false starts that put us in third-and-long, fourth-and long,' said Green. 'I believe in this team more now than ever. I just wish we could have gotten a few more plays on offense to go along with the way the defense played.'
Oxford will now try to secure its first .500 season since 1997 with a win over Octorara next week.
'This was a win we needed,' said Pietlock. 'We needed the conference win like we got tonight.'
Oxford 13, Kennett 9 Kennett 6 3 0 0 -- 9
Oxford 7 0 6 0 -- 13 Scoring K -- Rose 5 run (kick failed)
O -- Herb 1 run (Dunn kick) K -- Rose 25 FG
O -- Hubley 35 pass from Herb (pass failed)
Team Totals K O First downs 13 6
Yards rushing 161 22 Yards passing 162 88
Total yards 323 110 Passing 7-11-2 5-9-0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0 Penalties 6-40 2-20
Punts-Avg. 2-20.0 3-33.3 Individual Statistics
RUSHING - Kennett: Jones 12-84; Clarke 14-35; Turner 4-13; Rose 5-12 TD; Bennett 3-17. Oxford: Mahmud 9-13; Deasey 3-7; Lopexz 3-4; Hubley 1-2; Herb 4-(M4) TD
PASSING - Kennett: Jones 7-11-2 156 yards. Oxford: Herb 5-9-0 88 yards TD
RECEIVING - Kennett: Turner 2-63; Rose 2-53; Dunleavey 2-26; Goudy 1-20; Oxford: Hubley 2-52 TD; Bentz 1-12; Williams 1-12; Sumner 1-12.
SACKS - Kennett: Maxwell; Oxford: Smith Winters.
INTERCEPTIONS - Oxford: Hilaman, Sumner.