OXFORD – Brett Kochmansky has some awfully big shoes to fill, but if his first outing as Oxford’s starting quarterback is any indication, he may have the feet (and arm) to do it.
Taking over the reins from Ches-Mont American Player of the Year, Chandler England, the senior rolled up 333 yards of total offense and accounted for all four of his team’s touchdowns, as the Hornets rallied past visiting West Chester Henderson, 30-7, in the 2018 season opener.
“(Kochmansky) is a very different quarterback than what we’ve had in the past,” said Oxford head coach Mike Means. “He is more of a runner, but as (Henderson) started to gear up on the run, some of our short passing game opened up.
“Brett is going to drive me nuts sometimes, but he had a great game.”
In all, Kochmansky ran it 17 times for a game-high 166 yards and two TDs, and then added 217 yards and two more scores through the air. But just as impressive was the Oxford defense, which limited the Warriors to 151 yards of total offense, including just 29 yards in the second half.
“With eight starters back on defense, we knew we were going to have to lean on those guys,” Means said. “They’ve all come back bigger, stronger and faster, and we needed them in the first half because we did not play well (offensively). It was ugly – we just weren’t clicking.”
Some of the credit goes to Henderson and first-year head coach Stefan Adams. The Warriors – who went 1-9 a year ago – went into the intermission trailing by just a point, but were overwhelmed in the second half.
“We only have so many guys who have played before at this level, so it was a first for a lot of guys — and a first for us as a coaching staff,” said Adams, a former Henderson and Bloomsburg standout.
“We are still trying to establish our identity, but as long as the guys compete, we’ll have some opportunities. But physically in some areas, as the game when on, (Oxford) outmanned us a little bit. But we also made some mental errors, which are things we can fix.”
The Hornets scored on their first possession of the season when Kochmansky went 50-yards on a keeper. A two-point conversion made it 8-0, and Oxford was threatening once again when Nate Mulhern picked off a Kochmansky pass to end the threat.
In the final minutes of the first half, defender Matt Lammey pounced on another Oxford turnover, and several plays later junior runner James Pierce found the end zone on a five-yard run to make it 8-7.
“We have capable guys on offense, but there is going to be growing pains,” Means said. “At the end of last season, we were rolling pretty good with the guys we had, but there are a lot of new faces.”
Kochmansky turned things around in a hurry in the second half, however, with a pass into the flats that junior runner Tim Faber turned into a 55-yard score. And after Tyler Brooks connected on a 23-yard field goal, the Hornets were in front 17-7.
“We cleaned some stuff up at halftime that needed to be cleaned up and fix,” Means said. “We were a different team in the second half, and I am proud of them for that.”
Oxford then took command following a Nate Ferro interception late in the third quarter. Kochmansky then found junior Jaxson Chew for a five-yard TD toss. And then in the fourth, Chew picked off a tipped pass by Henderson quarterback Pat Esemplare, which set up the final score of the game: a short run by Kochmansky.
“We started off a little slow, but coach Means got on us and the second half was out time to shine,” Kochmansky said. “We put up 22 points in the second half and the defense didn’t let up any.
“We knew that first half wasn’t us. In the second half we found our identity and just let it loose.”
It was the first career score and interception for Chew, who made his varsity debut on Friday.
“My teammates were happy for me, so that made it even better,” he said. “I was nervous at the start, but after a couple plays it went away.”
Afterwards, Adams said that the key to stopping Oxford is keeping Kochmansky corralled. But especially in the second half, the Warriors had trouble doing it.
“Oxford does a great job with its scheme,” he explained. “(Kochmansky) holds that ball as long as he can and it really sucks the defenders in for play-action.”
In his varsity debut, Esemplare looked good early. But the sophomore connected on just two passes in the second half and had two picked off. Henderson managed just 80 yards on the ground on 26 attempts.
“It’s just one game,” Adams said. “It’s a long season and we will get better.”