OCEAN SPRINGS – If you tell Drew Causey or anyone else on the Oak Grove team, for that matter, that the Warriors' 28-21 win over Ocean Springs was upset, well, they would disagree with you.
The Warriors certainly proved that.
The defending 6A state champions are now heading back to the South State title game for their fourth consecutive year after imposing their will on both sides of the ball against the Greyhounds in the second half of Friday's game.
"Our guys played with all the heart and effort that they could play with tonight," Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. "It was a great team effort."
The Oak Grove defense shut out Ocean Springs in the second half and outgained the Greyhounds 228-24. Behind the running back combo of Dontavious Howard and JQ Gray, the run game combined to put up 350 rushing yards. Causey gave credit to the offensive line since it was part of the game plan for them to win the trenches.
"I thought they played really well," Causey said. "I don't know how many yards we rushed for, but it had to be a lot. That was our plan all along to really put it on our o-line, and they came through.
"We knew it would be hard to throw, so Coach (Russell) Mitchell did a great job and came up with a great game plan. Our guys executed pretty dang well."
Despite the shutout, the start of the game looked to be the shootout that fans had anticipated.
Ocean Springs scored in its first three possessions. On the Greyhounds' opening drive, Ocean Springs drove 64 yards, with quarterback Brayson Hubbard running in for a 9-yard touchdown.
Oak Grove responded as a 33-yard catch by Tyrell Pollard set up a 1-yard touchdown run for Howard to tie the game at 7-7.
"I knew I had to come in and do what I had to do for the team and get the team win," Howard said. "When we came out of halftime we just told each that we got to do what we need to do and come together to get the win."
Ocean Springs then scored again, with running back David Humphries scoring on a 2-yard touchdown to cap off an 8-play, 71-yard drive. However, Oak Grove answered right back with Gray breaking out a 78-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 just before the end of the first quarter.
"Everybody executed their job and just made that play easy," Gray said. "We came out and executed the game plan. Coach said for us to play (tonight) like any other Friday."
Hubbard then came up with his own big play on the next drive as he busted out for a 60-yard touchdown run to take a 21-14 lead.
From there, Oak Grove kept Ocean Springs off the board, while a pair of fumbles by the Warriors kept them from scoring again before the half. In fact, Oak Grove fumbled the ball away three times, but the Warrior defense kept Ocean Springs from taking advantage of the mistakes.
Hubbard had run for 118 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the half while the Greyhound had accumulated 203 total yards. Notably entering the game, Ocean Springs had averaged 163 passing yards and 215 rushing yards per game.
In the second half, Oak Grove held Ocean Springs to just 24 yards of total offense, with Hubbard being held to just 10 rushing yards.
After Ocean Springs' last touchdown, the Greyhounds punted seven straight times and were 1-for-8 on third down conversations until their final drive.
The Warriors' ground game continued to flourish as it not only took control of the time possession but broke out two more big runs to take the lead.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, quarterback Kabe Barnett broke out a 45-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
On the following drive, Gray came up with another big run and scored from 47-yards out to give the Warriors the go-ahead lead. Gray finished the game with 148 rushing and two touchdowns off eight carries, while Howard totaled 107 yards and a touchdown off 20 carries.
"Dontavious ran the ball great," Causey said. "It was something all year that we knew he could do. When he makes his mind up, he is a great football player.
"JQ is a heck of a football player."
The Greyhounds converted two first downs on Ocean Springs' last drive, one of which came on a penalty, to get inside the red zone. Yet they were turned away after failing to come up with a first down on fourth and two.
Oak Grove will now hope to avenge their 24-17 loss to Brandon earlier in the season as the Bulldogs host the Warriors next Friday.