JACKSON – It may go down as one of the gutsiest played in the history of the Gridiron Classic.
Oak Grove quarterback Kabe Barnett scrambled on fourth and two and scored on a 10-yard run to trail 28-27 with seven seconds left in the game.
Instead of taking a sigh of relief and opting to kick a PAT to force overtime, Oak Grove coach Drew Causey chose to go for it all and sent his offense back on the field to win the game with a 2-point conversion.
“That was something we decided right when we got the ball,” Causey said. “I told our offensive coaches if we got it, then we were going for two and go ahead and win it. It never crossed my mind to kick it.”
Barnett snapped the ball and took three steps to the right before he found an open Trayvon Moore in the end zone’s left corner. Moore earned the honor of the game’s Most Valuable Player with the catch.
“We knew they were going to follow Tyrell (Pollard) out on the out route,” Barnett said. “The tight end acted like he was blocking, so whenever they see him block, they don’t guard him, and so I knew he would be open. I just put the ball in the perfect spot.
“We knew we had to go for it all instead of forcing it into overtime. We didn’t want to give them another chance.”
The successful play gave Oak Grove not only a 29-28 lead but snapped Oak Grove’s state championship losing streak.
“We knew what we wanted to do,” Causey said. “That’s a play we have probably run about a thousand times this year at practice. I don’t think we have actually run it at all during the season. It’s just a play that we practice every single day two or three times. We felt like we needed it, and we went to it tonight.”
The Warriors got off to a quick start against Oxford. The Warriors forced a three and out on Oxford’s opening drive. Oak Grove then scored in four plays, with running back Courtland Harris running in a touchdown on an 8-yard run.
Oxford answered back just before the end of the first quarter with quarterback Michael Harvey throwing a 15-yard touchdown, tying the game.
On the following drive, the Warriors stayed ahead, with Barnett rushing for a touchdown and taking a 14-7 lead.
Again, the Chargers got on the board just before the half with running back Omar Howell scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run.
to the tie game.
Out of halftime, the Chargers began to seize momentum with its passing game after each team exchanged fumbles. Harvey connected with wide receiver D.K Johnson, who had 100 receiving yards at halftime, for a 12-yard touchdown and took the lead 21-14.
Oak Grove’s offense continued to stall due to penalties, fumbles and big stops by Oxford’s defense.
“They had mixed their coverage up a lot more than they have all year,” Causey said. “For us, I just felt like we weren’t executing really. The plays that we called we liked, but we just didn’t execute them.”
With just over six minutes left and after having to punt again, Oak Grove’s Jaylen Aborom provided needed momentum with a pick-six against Harvey to tie the game.
Oxford managed to stay ahead with its wide receiver continuing to come up with several big plays to keep the Chargers alive with a 29-yard catch setting up Harvey’s third passing touchdown to Alec Vaughn to hold a 28-21 lead. Harvey finished the game 16 of 21 and threw for 257 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“This has been long, especially losing the last two years in this game,” Causey said. “I’ll be honest, I sat there in the fourth quarter, and I said, ‘God, if it’s meant to be just let something good for us happen,’ and it did. If anybody says prayer doesn’t work, they are wrong.”
Oak Grove defensive back Jaylen Aborom answered that prayer as he intercepted Oxford quarterback Michael Harvey to tie the game 21-21. The play sparked needed momentum for the Warriors.
Barnett capped off the Warriors final drive of 80 yards on 11 plays facing fourth and two. Barnett scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown to set up the game-winning play. Barnett finished the game 21 of 30 and passed for 200 yards while rushing for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
“Kabe is an unbelievable player,” Causey said. “He is one of the best quarterbacks in the state, and he is only a junior. We are glad to have him back. He fought through a lot tonight. He kind of started out hot, then he kind of got cold in the middle, and then he came back on that last drive and just played unbelievable. Our offensive line did an exceptional job of keeping him standing up right all night long.”
Oak Grove’s win is the second in school history, as well as Causey’s first state championship win as a head coach. In addition, Oak Grove snapped Oxford’s 25-game winning streak.
“That might be a classic right here,” Causey said. “They are young and we’re young hopefully were (both) back again. It would be a lot of fun, but we’re going to enjoy this one for a while.”