OXFORD—The Oxford Hornets have made comeback victories trademark so far on the young season. And on Friday night, it looked like they might pull off another won, rallying from a 21-point halftime deficit to pull within two points of visiting Rustin. But the Golden Knights wouldn’t be the successful program they are without being able to regroup and close out games.
Though the Hornets (3-1, 0-1) pushed Rustin (3-1, 1-0) to the bitter end, the Knights answered back with scores when they needed them, and enough key defensive stops to hold off the upstart Hornets to win 42-34.
“Mike (Means) has put together a good program over there,” said Rustin Coach Mike St. Clair. “Their skill players are all over. You just have to hope you can outscore them. Fortunately, we did.”
It was the Golden Knight defense that came up with the big plays early, plays that turned out to be the difference in the game. Already up 14-7, the Knights stopped Oxford short on a fourth and three, giving them possession on downs at the Oxford 39. Three plays later, Nick Benoit scored his third touchdown of the first half to make it 21-7,
On Oxford’s ensuing possession, the Knights once again stymied the Hornet offense, then blocked the punt to get a first and ten at the 15. This time, Michael Covert ran it in for the score, and the Knights led 28-7 at the half.
“Those were huge stops,” said St. Clair. “A blocked punt, two big stops on fourth down, those really were big. It’s hot and humid here, those guys were in great shape and we were able to get enough points on the board to get a win.”
The Hornets would get the ball first in the second half, and decided to make it a game. Right out of the gate, Chandler England connected with his favorite target, Brandon DeShields, over the middle, and after breaking a tackle, DeShields raced 72 yards to the Rustin two. Holz carried it in on the next play.
After the Hornet defense held, Oxford took over at its own 39. This time it was Holz (13 carries, 121 yards) breaking free to cover the 61-yards to
paydirt. All of a sudden, it was a one score game.
Faced with a third and long, the Knights went to the air for one of just a handful of times all night. But Oxford’s Justin Neskie came up with the interception. England hit DeShields two plays later, but the conversion failed and Rustin still led 28-26.
“I put a challenge to them at halftime,” said Mike Means. “Let’s see what kind of character we have. We’ve faced some diversity this season, but never down 28-7 at the half. They showed what we can do coming back the way they did in the second half. We just didn’t finish”
This time it was Rustin’s turn to answer back. Facing a third and long again, Rustin QB Mike Pileggi hit a little screen to Benoit, who turned on the afterburners and turned it into a 65-yard touchdown.
“I’m not sure why we came out so soft in the second half,” said Benoit, who finished the night with 117 yards and four TDs on 16 carries, along with the TD reception. “That isn’t Rustin football. Getting that score the way we did was a crazy turnaround. We just stuck together and kept battling. There was never any doubt in ourselves that we would do what we had to do to win.”
Benoit tacked on another touchdown midway through the fourth that put the Knights up 42-26, but the Hornets weren’t ready to pack it in just yet, scoring on a two-yard plunge from England. With Holz adding the two-point conversion, Oxford pulled within eight with just over two minutes to play. But the onside kick try failed, and the Knights were able to run out the clock.
“Rustin and Unionville have been the bullies of this league for ten years, and with good reason,” said Means. “They have a great team over there, but we have nothing to hang their heads about. They played tough and gave all the effort you could ask for. We just came up a little short.”
West Chester Rustin 42 Oxford 34
Rustin 14 14 7 7 — 42
Oxford 7 0 19 8 — 34
WCR — Benoit 9-run, Bosch kick 7-0
WCR — Benoit 4-run, Bosch kick 14-0
OX—England 14-run, O’Connor kick 14-7
WCR — Benoit 15-run, Bosch kick 21-7
WCR—Covert 9-run , Bosch kick 28-7
OX—Holz, 2-run, kick fail 28-13
OX—Holz 61-run, O’Connor kick 28-20
OX—DeShields 9-pass from England , pass fail 28-26
WCR—Benoit 65-pass from Pileggi, Bosch kick 35-26
WCR—Benoit 29-run, Bosch kick 42-26
OX—England 2-run, Holz run 42-34
First downs 13 16
Rushes-yards 37–254 27-196
Passing 2-6 16-23
Passing yards 82 184
Total yards 336 380
Punts 3-35.3 2-33.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-50 4-45
Rushing — WCR Benoit 16-117 4TD, Covert 13-83 TD, Walsh 5-43, Kaliner 3-11 OX Holz 13-121 2TD, Faber 7-19, England 11-61 2TD, Nadachowski 2-9, McWilliams 1-5
Passing — WCR—Pileggi 2-4, 82, 1TD, INT OX—England 18-23-184, TD, Thomas 0-1
Receiving — WCR—Hopkins 1-17 Benoit 1-65 TD OX DeShields 3-83 TD, Faber 5-29, Nadachowski 3-15, McWilliams 3-42, Holz 1-8, Thomas 1-7
Interceptions — OX Neskie
Sacks — WCR Aloisio