BRANDON – History was not meant to repeat itself for Oak Grove.
Similar to the Warriors' game-winning two-point conversion against Oxford a year ago, Oak Grove found itself scoring a late touchdown and opted to call another go-head two-point conversion.
However, this year's two-point conversion wasn't meant to be, as Brandon held firm at Bulldog Stadium on Friday night. The Bulldogs managed to hold off a potential fourth-quarter comeback by the Warriors and came away with a 21-20 win in the 6A South State Championship.
"I felt like they (Brandon) had a lot of momentum going on," Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. "We really weren't able to run the ball. When you get the ball inside of the 10 in overtime, it's kind of hard if you are not able to successfully run the ball. We felt like our best chance was right there. (Brandon) did a great job of covering the play. Our guys fought until the very end."
Brandon (11-2) will play Madison Central in the Class 6A state championship at Southern Miss' M.M. Roberts Stadium.
The Warriors did manage to get the ball back after scoring by coming up with an onside kick with 45 seconds left. Despite the late momentum, Oak Grove faced fourth and six, and tried to attempt a trick play to get within field goal range. Quarterback Kabe Barnett completed a pass near the sideline to Jaylon Aborom, who then lateralled the ball to JQ Gray. Unfortunately for Oak Grove, Gray bobbled the ball out of bounds, and Brandon came up with a victory formation to end the game.
"It was (designed)," Causey said. "He kind of just bobbled it right there at the end. He would have gotten the first down. It just wasn't our night."
The Warrior offense struggled after their first drive in the game, as for the majority of the night, both Barnett and the run game were inconsistent throughout the night.
Barnett started the game 8-for-10 and helped Oak Grove (10-3) score on a 10-play, 80-yard drive as he connected with Aborom for a 10-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.
Brandon responded quickly as quarterback Brandon Varnes threw a 26-yard touchdown to Devin Thigpen to tie the game. Varnes finished 7-for-14 and threw for 147 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
A defensive battle then ensued with Oak Grove's defense holding Brandon to minus-7 rushing yards while the Warriors mustard 44 rushing yards. Barnett finished the second half 12-for-20 for 119 yards.
A key difference in the night was Brandon's ability to come up with 157 rushing yards in the second half behind running back Jarvis Durr. Durr, who was held to 19 yards in the first half, took over the workload of Brandon's run game after 1,000-yard rusher Nate Blount IV broke his collarbone last week. On the Bulldogs' first play in the second half, Durrbroke out a 73-yard touchdown to give Brandon a 14-7 lead.
Three drives later, after Barnett was intercepted, Durr ripped runs of 27 and 28 yards before scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run to extend Brandon's lead to 21-7 with just over five minutes left in the game.
From there, Oak Grove's offense came alive and scored a minute and a half later as Barnett found Aborom again for a 21-yard touchdown to narrow the lead 21-14.
The Warrior defense forced a three and out, which led to Oak Grove scoring again, with Cameron Shepoard punching in a 1-yard touchdown run prior to the failed two-point conversion.
"We've got a championship football team," Causey said. "In the last five minutes, they played like it."
Barnett finished the game 24-for-44 and threw for 252 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while the run game put up 99 yards. By the end of the night, Oak Grove had run 79 offensive plays compared to Brandon's 45.
"(Brandon has) a great football team," Causey said. "They have a really good d-line. They played well."
With the loss, Oak Grove's three-year streak of appearing in a state title game comes to an end.
"They are just a great bunch of kids that we get to coach every day," Causey said. "I'm extremely proud of them. I'm proud to be their coach. We are going to be back."