Despite the scoreboard reading 27 to 0 with Oak Grove defeating Hattiesburg on Friday night, both teams left with the same conclusion.
Each side played great defense, but the glaring story of the night was both sides having struggling offenses.
For Oak Grove, the Warriors failed to generate a consistent offense despite putting up over 400 yards of offense, which was largly due to an inconsistent passing game. Oak Grove’s quarterback Kabe Barnett was 12 of 27 and threw for 209 yards and an interception.
“I think our defense played their butt off all night long,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “Our offense didn’t play well. I told the (team) that the offensive line didn’t play well at all tonight. We made a ton of mistakes just letting people run free on pass protection. Kabe was back there running for his life, but Kabe has got to do a better job of stepping up and making a hard throw and possibly getting hit.
“We have got a long way to go before we get to where we want to be.”
For Hattiesburg, the Tigers failed to eclipse 100-yards of total offense and averaged just two yards per play on the night.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “That’s the strength of our football team. We just have to find a way to help them on offense.
“We wanted to try and control the line of scrimmage. We wanted to control the clock and shorten the game. That was the plan.”
Oak Grove (2-0) jumped out to an early lead as the Warriors scored on its first three drives of the game.
Oak Grove pulled together a quick 7-play, 63-yard drive to start the game, with Quintin Sterling scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run. With short field position, Oak Grove scored on a 10-play, 58-yard drive, with Barnett scoring on a 3-yard run with 4 minutes and 35 seconds left in the first quarter and, push the lead to 13-0 after the PAT failed.
Oak Grove fumbled on a punt that gave Hattiesburg back-to-back possessions before the Warriors scored again. A 60-yard completion to Jaylen Aborom set up a 5-yard touchdown run by JQ Gray to push the lead to 20-0 at the half.
In Oak Grove’s next seven drives, which spanned between the end of the second half to the fourth quarter, Hattiesburg forced the Warriors to go three and out three times, turned the ball over on fourth down twice, was intercepted and blocked a field goal. Notably, in the span of those seven drives, Oak Grove converted nine first down.
“We didn’t execute what we were wanting to do, and you give (Hattiesburg) credit for that,” Causey said. “I think our guys didn’t come out with the same mindset as they came out within the second half, and that’s something we have to get fixed.
“(Hattiesburg is) an extremely athletic football team. But it’s like I told our guys that our expectation is very high for our football team. That wasn’t acceptable.”
For Hattiesburg (0-3), the Tigers’ offense was 3-for-15 on third-down conversions, one of which came off a penalty by Oak Grove. Hattiesburg’s passing combined to be 4 of 19, throwing for 43 yards and an interception.
“The defense played really well,” said Oak Grove linebacker Braxton Miller, who made an interception. “We got our first shut out in the past two years. Everybody flew around the ball and made plays. We were expecting (Hattiesburg) to lineup a lot of people on one side and just run it down our throat. We found a solution for it.”
“We’ve worked on third downs a lot because last season we struggled with it and wanted to get better at it. That’s been a focus for us, to get off the field on third down.”
Hattiesburg’s sophomore running back, Tavares Wade, led the Tiger offense with 48 yards off 18 carries.
“We have to keep working (on offense),” Vance said. “That’s all we can ask them to do. Keep coming to practice every day. Keep working. Keep getting better and keep executing. We’ll get better, I can promise you that. I don’t know anything else, but I know we’ll get better. These guys are going to keep working and they will keep grinding. We are going to get better, that I know.
“I thought we played hard. The defense gave us a chance. We are just happy with the effort they gave tonight. We are going to build on that. We’ll roll into next week and try to get a (win).”
Gray helped the Warriors put Hattiesburg away in the final two drives of the night. In Oak Grove’s second to last drive, which started at the 1-yard line, Gray broke out a 64-yard run. While the Warriors failed to score on the drive, Oak Grove’s defense maintained the favorable field position by forcing the Tigers to turn over on downs. In the Warriors’ final drive, Gray broke out a 42-yard touchdown run.
Gray proved to be the highlight for Oak Grove’s offense as he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
“Probably the bright spot of the second half was that we got the ball on the 1-yard line, and we ran power, and he broke for about 70 yards,” Causey said. “He had a great game. JQ is a heck of a football player. He can play a lot of different positions for us. I’m glad he is on our side.”
Next week Hattiesburg will host Meridian while Oak Grove will host Greenville Christian.