PREP FOOTBALL: Late field goal lifts Oxford over Arab 26-24

Arab’s Wes Johnson (8) caught six passes for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Knights’ 26-24 loss to Oxford Friday night. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

ARAB, Ala. — The Arab Knights are one of the hottest teams in Class 6A as they looked to not only extend its winning streak to six straight games, but also looked to clinch the no. 1 seed in Class 6A, Region 8, at home against Oxford. In a tale of two halves by both teams, a game-winning field goal by the Yellow Jackets helped them clinch a 26-24 win over Arab.

The Knight defense forced a quick three-and-out on its opening possession and their offense got started at the 43-yard line. They got off to a strong start offensively as Hayden O’Reilly picked up eight yards on the first play and then Ed Johnson found Wes Johnson for a gain of 34 yards, which put Arab at the 15. But the Oxford defense stiffened after that and the Knights’ Gavin Currier drilled a 28-yard field goal to put the Knights on the board first with a little less than eight minutes to go in the opening period. 

Arab’s Josh Roe recovered the kickoff at the 32-yard line and two plays later, Ed Johnson found Wes Johnson for a 32-yard score to give the Knights a 10-0 lead with 7:30 left in the first quarter. On the second play of Arab’s next defensive series, a pass interference penalty helped move the Yellow Jackets past midfield to the 46-yard line. Oxford got eight yards and a first down, then later on, they got called for holding. That ended up costing the Yellow Jackets on fourth down as the Knights defense stuffed the runner for no gain. After getting a couple of first downs on its next possession, Arab couldn’t get anything going after that as they were forced to punt. 

For the second straight time, after giving up a couple of first downs, the Knights defense stopped the Oxford runner just a yard short on fourth down. Ed Johnson connected with Drew Puccio for a 26-yard gain on the second play of Arab’s series, and two plays later, Ed Johnson found Wes Johnson on the right side; he dodged some tackles before taking it to the house as his 49-yard score gave the Knights a 17-0 lead with 7:50 remaining in the first half. Oxford responded in a hurry on its next possession, driving down the field before finding the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the Arab lead to 17-7. 

The Knights looked to add another score before the half. Ed Johnson found Brody McCain for 39 and 13 yards, respectively, as that put them at the 24-yard line. Sadly, though, three plays later, Ed Johnson’s pass got intercepted in the end zone. The Knights defense, though, got the ball right back as John Ray Wilks picked off a pass at the 43, but they were forced to punt. The Yellow Jackets hit a 32-yard field goal to make it a 17-10 game at the half.

Arab’s offense went three-and-out to start out the second half, and Oxford went 10 plays on its opening series of the second half; it ended with a one-yard touchdown run and that tied the game up at 17. The Knights looked to break the tie on its next possession; Drake Franklin and Ed Johnson each picked up a huge first down early on in the drive. But on a fourth-and-two, Johnson got stuffed for no gain as the Knights turned the ball over on downs. Arab’s defense forced a punt and the third quarter ended with the score still knotted up at 17; that helped set the stage for an amazing fourth quarter.

Arab’s offense got the ball at the 16-yard line, and it was a heavy dose of Ed Johnson during the drive as he helped keep the drive alive with four first down. Oxford’s defense helped them out as well, getting called for three penalties, including a huge holding call on fourth down, and that put them at the 14. A few run plays later, Johnson finished off the amazing 22-play, 84-yard drive with a one-yard run to give the Knights a 24-17 lead with 2:47 remaining in the game. Oh, and by the way, that drive took almost 10 minutes off the clock. But the Yellow Jackets were not done yet as a huge 37-yard run on first down later led to them finding the end zone on a five-yard run. They tried to take the lead, but Arab’s defense stood tall and forced a bad pass as they held a 24-23 lead with 1:41 remaining in the final period. 

The Knights looked to milk the clock and get a first down, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t let that happen as they were forced to punt. The ball stopped at the 20-yard line as Arab’s defense looked to hold off Oxford on its final drive. But a face mask penalty on third down put the ball at the 45-yard line and the Yellow Jackets quickly moved the ball past midfield; they would find themselves at the 20-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Oxford were setting up for a game-winning 37-yard field goal. Arab was looking to make a huge play on special teams, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Yellow Jackets drilled the 37-yard field goal as the Knights suffer their first loss of the season at home, 26-24. Ed Johnson finished the night going 12/21 for 237 yards and two touchdowns; he added 70 more on the ground and a score. Wes Johnson added 130 yards on six receptions and a pair of touchdowns. McCain ended up with 63 yards on three receptions. Roe had a fumble recovery for Arab (6-2, 4-1), while Wilks added an interception.

The Knights will be off next week and will host Springville in two weeks as they will look to bounce back and try to clinch the no. 1 seed in the region.

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