Happening Now

Commentary on Champions Athletic Center in Oxford

The Champions Athletic Center nears completion on Oxford’s campus. The Yellow Jackets expect to move in full time in two weeks, Oxford football coach Sam Adams said. (Photo by Joe Medley)
The Champions Athletic Center nears completion on Oxford’s campus. The Yellow Jackets expect to move in full time in two weeks, Oxford football coach Sam Adams said. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Oxford, AL – With region title and two playoff berths to his credit, Adams mitigated Oxford’s fall after huge player losses, enters third season with reasons to hope for next step

Joe Medley

As construction on Oxford’s Champions Athletic Center nears completion and Sam Adams nears his third season as head football coach, it’s worth remembering where things stood two years ago.

Yellow Jacket world felt more like a hornets nest. Negativity was the buzz as 12 players transferred, and then-first-year coach Sam Adams had to rebuild a roster also missing 30 graduated seniors from 2020.

Two years, one region title and two playoff berths later, the inevitable crash wasn’t even a recession. More like a downturn with a soft landing.

Adams has his third Oxford team, with an intriguing load of skill players, and he’s about to live the facilities dreams of his predecessors.

There yet?

“If we’d have won 10 consecutive state championships, I don’t know if I’d say it was there yet,” Adams said Thursday during a preseason chat. “Everything’s always under construction.”

Construction stays front of mind in Adams’ world, and the new Champions Center remains on schedule for full-time by September.

It’s the ubiquitous bricks-and-mortar element in this better-days picture.

The centerpiece is the indoor practice facility with a 40-yard turf field. Twenty-six black-and-gold racks line a vast weight room, and Oxford athletes will now train in college-level comfort.

Adams can’t help but smile. If nothing else, life in his temporary trailer is near its end, but the impact goes to help him in this era of new problems for coaches. With players moving around, even high school coaches must continuously recruit their own rosters.

Big-time digs offer incentive to stay.

“In my opinion, this will be the best high school facility in the state … ,” Adams said. “You could definitely make the case that, outside of current-day Alabama and Auburn, this could be the best one in the state, high school or college.”

Adams also had a second-year starting quarterback with offers including Mississippi State. Junior Mason Mims has put on 20 pounds of bulk and spent time with Oxford track coach Landon Delozier, working to add a running dimension to an already strong and accurate arm.

Mims is a passer more than a runner, but Adams wants a more willing runner who can get first downs on scrambles and the occasional called quarterback run.

On top of a quarterback who can make all of the throws, Oxford has an array of targets. Lincoln transfer Camare Hampton augments an already strong receiver corps with Nick Richardson and Judd Syer. Former receiver Jayden Lewis, now a high-jumping, 6-foot-4, 220-pound matchup nightmare, moves from receiver to right end.

D.K. Wilson returns as a receiver/running back hybrid. Tight end/inside receiver Nick Hampton, Camera’s younger brother, completes the picture of Adams’ most versatile offense so far at Oxford.

The Yellow Jackets can score, and they return plenty on defense.

For all the facilities and skill that Oxford has, maybe the most important element in this better-days picture is time. Adams has had time to rebuild after losing what would be a full roster for some high school teams before he coached a game there.

He’s had time to raise a team his way.

“I really feel like this group of seniors really understands what I’m asking of the team, what my standards are for the team and why,” Adams said. “The first year, everything is so new, and everybody is just trying to learn everybody. The second year, we had a good group of seniors, and they understood the standards, but I don’t know if they always understood why.

“Now, in year three, we have senior leaders that understand the whole picture.”

Jacket facts

Things to know about Oxford football heading into the 2023 season:

—Sam Adams enters his third season as Oxford’s head coach. In 2022, he coached the Yellow Jackets to a 5-6 finish, ending in a first-round playoff loss to Gardendale.

—Key graduation losses from 2022 include four Class 4A-6A All-Calhoun County players: linebacker Michael Battle, offensive lineman Jackson Bunn, defensive back Emari Carroll and defensive lineman Josiah Kimbrough.

—Key returnees include All-County picks: junior quarterback Mason Mims, junior wide receiver Nick Richardson, senior wide receiver Judd Syer, sophomore defensive lineman Keenan Britt,  junior offensive lineman Reshad Cunningham, junior running back D.K. Wilson, junior tight end/linebacker James Tapley, senior kicker Rey Barrera, junior defensive back Cristian Gibson, junior defensive back Cedric Twyman, junior defensive lineman Caleb Tinner, junior linebacker Hudson Gilman.

—Players to watch include senior wide receiver Camare Hampton, who transferred from Lincoln, and tight end Jayden Lewis, who moved from receiver and provides an intriguing receiving target.

—The second year of the current realignment cycle has Oxford once again aligned with Class 6A, Region 6 powers Pinson Valley and Clay-Chalkville. Region rival Pell City won one game in 2022 but hired Rush Propst to rebuild the program. In non-region play, Oxford plays Huntsville at home and McAdory, Hartselle and Jacksonville on the road.

The Champions Athletic Center nears completion on Oxford’s campus. The Yellow Jackets expect to move in full time in two weeks, Oxford football coach Sam Adams said. (Photo by Joe Medley)
The Champions Athletic Center nears completion on Oxford’s campus. The Yellow Jackets expect to move in full time in two weeks, Oxford football coach Sam Adams said. (Photo by Joe Medley)

 

 

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