WESTON >> With a new quarterback under center for Oxford, the Wolverines’ offense needed a little extra time to get things going in their season-opener on the road Thursday afternoon.
That turned out to be just fine with the Oxford defense.
Led by two interceptions from senior Chris Vankamerik, Oxford forced six turnovers, and the ground game of Marcus Esteves and Steve Persson guided the Wolverines to a 23-6 victory over South-West Conference opponent Weston.
“I thought our defense played really good today,” Oxford head coach Joe Stochmal said. “You know, we knew we had to be physical, we knew we had to play assignment football against their option.”
The defense allowed senior quarterback Kyle Chudoba, who was making his first varsity start, time to settle in and get comfortable. After an opening drive that ended in a sack, Vankamerick quickly gave them another chance.
On the fourth play of Weston’s second drive of the afternoon, Vankamerick intercepted Weston’s Erik Dammen-Brower. With the ball back, Chudoba got into a rhythm and never looked back. He found teammate Kevin Loschiavo for a 33-yard score and the 7-0 lead.
“It takes a little while to get used to the flow of a varsity game and I think he’s going to be a good one,” Stochmal said of Chudoba.
Chudoba finished the afternoon completing 6 of 7 passes for 145 yards.
The defense and rushing attack provided the rest of the highlights.
After Weston scored its only touchdown of the game, a 4-yard run from Peter Lummis in the second quarter, Oxford took over in all facets. Vankamerik added his second pick of the game right before the half, and raced 41 yards to the end zone to give Oxford the 13-6 edge.
“It’s a great feeling you know,” Vankamerik said. “We lost to this team four times in a row (and) it’s good to come back and get the W.”
The second half was more of the same as Oxford pounded the ball and wore out a young Trojans team that advanced to the Class M state semifinals last fall. After a fumble to start the third quarter, Oxford took over as Esteves capped off a five-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown to put the Wolverines up 20-6.
“They were blitzing us and we had trouble picking up their blitzes,” Stochmal said. “We decided to go a little man on man with them and we’re fortunate enough to chip away at it and think we may have tired them down a little bit in the second half.”
Esteves finished with 54 yards rushing off 11 carries, while Persson had 11 carries for 49 yards. He also added an interception on the defensive end.
“We put the ball on the ground and Oxford played a better game and they deserve to win,” Weston head coach Joe Lato said. “They got a good team and they deserve to win today and we didn’t help.”
Weston struggled for the entire game to play consistent. Down 20-6 in the third quarter, Weston marched down the field led by running back junior Sam Panton, but fumbled on Oxford’s 33 yard line and lost any momentum it had gained.
“The most important stat in all of sports is takeaways and turnovers,” Lato said.
Oxford responded with a field goal to go up 23-6.
Weston was led by Panton’s 82 yards on the ground, while Lummis finished with 62 rushing yards and added two receptions for 23 yards. Dammen-Brower was 9 of 18 for 81 yards and finished with three picks.
Oxford, which has plans to make the state tournament this season, will travel to New Milford on Sept. 20.
“Last year was not a fluke and we’re back and ready to pick up right where we left off,” Vankamerik said.
Oxford 23, Weston 6
Oxford 7 6 10 0 — 23
Weston 0 6 0 0 — 6
O—Kevin Loschiavo 33 pass from Kyle Chudoba (Ryan Flach kick)Second quarter
W—Peter Lummis 4 run (kick failed)
O—Chris Vankamerick 41 int ret (kick failed)Third quarter
O—Marcus Esteves 1 run (Flach kick)
O—Ryan Flach 22 FG
Team records: Weston 0-1; Oxford 1-0.