EAST NOTTINGHAM >> The contest happened two weeks ago, which is an eternity for high school football. But Oxford head coach, Michael Means, called it the “craziest game I’ve ever seen,” and it’s worth revisiting.
His Hornets edged Sun Valley 50-49 in a Ches-Mont American shootout that was epic in scope. And Oxford’s first-year quarterback, Brett Kochmansky, put up offensive numbers you see on Playstation, but rarely at the high school level.
“Brett had an incredible game,” Means said. “He did some things you just can’t coach. Sometimes, even if he makes the wrong decision, he’ll make up for it with his athleticism.
“A couple times in that game, my mouth just dropped because he made an incredible play.”
A true duel-threat, Kochmansky ran for 185 yards against the Vanguards, threw for another 328 and accounted for six touchdowns. Yes, you read it right: a high school kid had 513 yards of total offense in one evening.
“And until this year, nobody knew his name,” Means pointed out. “But we knew what we had. And he’s developed at a pace that I’m surprised with.
“He is getting better and better. He has improved a ton just from the summer.”
Take a look at the current individual leaders in the Ches-Mont and you’ll see Kochmansky near the top in both running and passing. He leads all quarterbacks, and is fifth overall, with 598 yards on the ground and has scored 12 TDs. He averages nearly six yards with every attempt.
And even though throwing the football may not be his first instinct, Kochmansky has a healthy QB rating that is third in the league. He’s already thrown for 1,094 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I think of myself as an athlete more than anything else,” Kochmansky said.
“(The numbers are) not a surprise. We have a lot of speed on offense, and our pace can be hard to get used to. And with the way our offense works with the running, it frees up the pass. When I have to pass, it’s definitely easier.”
A year ago, Kochmansky was Oxford’s starting free safety and the backup to star signalcaller Chandler England, the C-M American Offensive Player of the Year for 2017. And like his predecessor, Danny Green, England was a classic strong-armed passer.
“Brett is quite different from the previous two quarterbacks we’ve had, who were very successful,” Means said. “We’ve had to transition some things around his skill set – like more quarterback run game and some things to spark him and get him going.”
That wasn’t a problem early on as Kochmansky led the Hornets to a 3-0 record with easy wins over West Chester Henderson, Interboro and Owen J. Roberts. In the first loss in week four, Kochmansky suffered a knee injury on the seventh offensive snap against Penn Wood, did not return, and was limited the following week in a 48-12 setback at Unionville.
“Being in this type of offense, the quarterback runs it a lot,” said Kochmansky, who is 6-foot-1, 170-pounds. “I have as much carries as some running backs might have around the league, so I do take a lot of hits.
“But there is a difference between being hurt and injured. If it’s something little, I know I have to push through it because I know a lot of guys that look up to me.”
The following week, Kochmansky engineered the wild win at Sun Valley. In Oxford’s four victories so far, he is averaging an eye-popping 366 yards of total offense. And in all four, he’s reached triple digits both running and passing.
In the three losses, however — including a 49-13 setback last Friday at West Chester Rustin – his numbers drop off considerably.
“Our offense is really quarterback driven,” Means explained. “Most things are not predetermined – it’s reads. So what he has to do is make good decisions with the football.”
The numbers tell us that if Kochmansky is a dynamic, duel-threat weapon, stretching the field with his arm and his legs, the Hornets will win. If he is bottled up, they don’t.
Can it be that simple?
“(The losses came against) more challenging opponents and injuries came into it — not just with me but other guys,” Kochmansky said.
“But I’m the type of player that comes out with a lot of swagger, and in those three games in particular I wasn’t coming out with the kind of fire. When we are faced with adversity, I have to turn it up a notch to another level.”
Means agrees: “Once we get that initial first down and he starts rolling, the offense starts rolling with him. In the game’s we’ve lost, he’s gotten bottled up and that’s taken away some of his fire and leadership. We have a lot of weapons, but he is the leader on offense.
“When (Kochmansky) is rolling, just the juice – the energy – is different because he is our vocal leader. And when he’s frustrated, it carries over. When he’s confident, our whole offense is confident.”
With all of that in mind, Oxford is pushing the reset button for the regular season’s final three outings, including Friday’s clash with visiting Great Valley. It will be followed by a road trip to much-improved Kennett to wrap up play in the wild and unpredictable Ches-Mont American for the Hornets.
According to Means, Oxford will try to simplify things offensively so that Kochmansky can react and not over-think things. And there will be an effort to spread the ball around a bit more to weapons like runner Tim Faber and wideout Brandon McWilliams.
“Defenses are trying to take away my legs, but at times I try to do too much. I know we have receivers and runners that can get the job done just as well as me,” Kochmansky said.
“There are teams that scheme to stop (Kochmansky),” Means added. “We need to do a better job in the games we’ve struggled of spreading the ball around.
“In those games I think I gave Brett a little more than he could handle. Sometimes I just need to let him play. I put too much on him against Rustin and it didn’t allow him to just play football.”
The Hornets final regular season contest is a home date with Bishop Shanahan. And even if Oxford is able to diversify its attack, you know that Kochmansky is going to have to be dynamic for the squad to finish with a winning mark.
“His athleticism is ridiculous,” Means said. “When he gets going, he is as fast of a kid as I’ve ever coached.”