The Yellow Jackets rallied after falling behind by 10 to Bob Jones by halftime of Friday’s second-round Class 6A playoff game in Madison City School’s Stadium, and again after star running back Racean Thomas left the game with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Oxford came up short by one out-of-bounds ruling on Jake Cook’s fourth-down catch in the back of the end zone with 4:50 to play and lost 28-24.
Bob Jones (10-2) advanced to next week’s quarterfinal matchup with Vestavia Hills, which beat Bessemer City 31-28.
Oxford finished 9-3, winning nine games in a row after an 0-2 start and mounting two scoring threats — one successful and one not — after losing their top player with seven minutes to play.
“I was real proud,” said Thomas, who finished with 81 yards on 22 carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
“It was just the will to win. They wanted to win just like I wanted to win, and they were willing to do anything to get that done.”
Thomas’ game and high school career ended on a 5-yard run around right end. Bob Jones linebacker James Haraway rolled into Thomas’ lower left leg at the Oxford 45.
“He fell on it, and it rolled,” said Thomas, the five-star running back and Auburn commitmentwho characterized the injury as “a sprain.”
Thomas stayed down before being helped off the field, unable to put weight on his left foot. Oxford trailed 25-18.
“It was hard,” said Thomas, who limped out of the locker room after the game. “Really, I’m the type of person, I always want to give my all, and I really couldn’t do that.”
His teammates did.
Oxford’s Ty Webber completed a 34-yard pass to LaQuandre Ferrell to set up two apparent TD plays.
Webber scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown run with 6:19 to play, but holding was called behind the play.
Three plays later, on fourth down from the 30, Webber scrambled left, and Cook broke inside in the back of the end zone. Cook caught Webber’s pass but was ruled out of bounds.
“I thought I came down with it and had the foot in bounds,” Cook said. “I dragged my foot, and we saw the footprint, but he ruled it out of bounds.
“We tried to argue it, but there wasn’t much point in arguing it then.”
Bob Jones added Matthew Trulock’s 37-yard field goal for a 28-18 lead with 1:48 to play, but personal foul and face-masking penalties helped Oxford mount one more drive, ending in Webber’s 16-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left.
Oxford tried an onsides kick twice, drawing an encroachment call on the first attempt. Bob Jones running back Ryan Crooks recovered the second.
“Our kids just have a ton of resilience,” Bob Jones coach Kevin Rose said. “We’ve been in every situation this year. We’ve come from behind, scored on the last play of the game, won in overtime.
“There’s not one situation our kids haven’t encountered, and they’ve responded every time.”
Oxford rallied from a 10-0 hole to take an 18-17 lead on Tredarian Gamble’s 32-yard run after catching a Webber screen pass at 1:59 of the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets fell behind after a brutal first half that saw them gain 37 total yards, including a negative-17 yards rushing. Thomas had eight yards on 11 carries, and Webber was sacked four times for minus-35 yards.
“They put everybody in there to stop Roc (Thomas), and they did a good job,” Herring said. “We knew they had an athletic defense, but we ended up finding ways to score.”
Thomas got the rally started with his touchdown run to make it 10-6, and Webber’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Gamble brought Oxford within 17-12 at 3:12 of the third quarter.
Webber completed 10 of 20 for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and Tredarian Gamble caught seven passes for 128 yards and two scores, including the go-ahead score on a cross-field run after a screen pass late in the third quarter.
Oxford safety Thomas Rudolph set up the go-ahead scored with a 43-yard interception return to Bob Jones’ 37-yard line.
Bob Jones went back up 25-18 on Crooks’ 13-yard run and Jeremy Frye’s conversion pass to Crooks at 11:38 of the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Patriots outgained Oxford 391 yards to 253, with 170 passing yards in the first half and 151 rushing yards in the second.
“I think we overcame a lot, really, over these last weeks and having a nine-game winning streak,” Thomas said. “Really, it was just coming together as a team.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.