Warriors fall 31-21 as Oxford scores 28 unanswered second half points to take 6A state crownBy JESSE JOHNSON,
The Oak Grove Warriors’ season came to an end Friday night and with the it the hope of a state championship title .
After being up 21-3 at halftime, the Warriors gave up 28 unanswered points losing Friday’s night’s matchup 31-21 to the Oxford Chargers in the 6A State Championship title game played at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the Southern Miss campus. It was the second state championship loss in a row as the Warriors were defeated in last year’s title game by Horn Lake.
The first quarter was mainly a defensive battle, as the two schools exchanged the ball back and forth. After a Damon Stewart fumble with 5:37 remaining in the first, Oxford put together a nine-play drive capped by a 27-yard field goal by Jack Tannehill to give the Chargers the lead 3-0 with 2:14 remaining in the first.
The remainder of the first half showcased just how much of an explosive offense the Warriors had displayed throughout the playoffs.
On the Warriors’ next possession, Oak Grove’s Stewart came to life with three consecutive repetitions, ending with a 27-yard deep pass to wideout Tavion Smith. The score gave the Warriors the 7-3 with 10:44 remaining in the half.
After a defensive three-and out for the Warriors, Oak Grove found themselves with the ball on the 25 yard line. On the first play of the drive, Nick Milsap broke a 54-yard run to the 31-yard line, as the crowd’s energy shifted the home team’s way.
Six plays later Eugene Newell punched it in from two to give the Warriors a 14-3 lead with 6:33 remaining in the half.
Oxford showed some life on the next play as quarterback John Meager broke a 44-yard run down to the 36 yard line. The drive wouldn’t last long as Oak Grove’s defense stepped up again and forced the Chargers to punt just five plays later.
Hard running by Milsap kept the chains moving as the Warriors found themselves in the red zone with under a minute left in the half.
After getting to the four-yard line, the Chargers put up a stance and held the Warriors to a fourth-down and goal on the 4-yard line with 10 seconds remaining in the half.
Instead of kicking the field goal to go up 17-3 at the half, Oak Grove used a play from Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Peterson’s playbook called the famous “Philly Special.”.
The Philly Special (also known as Philly Philly) was a trick play between Eagle players Corey Clement, Trey Burton and quarterback Nick Foles in a fourth-and-goal situation at the end of the second quarter of Super Bowl LII. On the play, Foles moved up behind his offensive line and the ball was snapped directly to the Eagles’ running back, who would pitch the ball to his tight end, who passed the ball to the wide open quarterback in the end zone.
The Warriors executed the play to perfection as Stewart lined up in the shotgun, took a few steps to the side as if he was changing the play and the ball was snapped to Eric Robertson who was in the backfield at the time. Robertson pitched the ball to Quentin Sterling, who found a wide-open Stewart in the end zone , which sent the Warriors fan base into a frenzy.
Sterling, who is listed as a defensive back, had his first career pass attempt with the four-yard connection to Stewart.
The trick score sent the Warriors into the locker room with a 21-3 lead at the half.
The second half was a different story as the Chargers woke up and completely dominated the Warriors on both sides of the ball.
The Chargers only needed three plays to find the end zone as John Meager completed a pass to JJ Pegues for a 62-yard deep touchdown pass slicing the lead to 21-10 early in the third quarter.
After a quick four-and-out for the Warriors, Oxford got the ball back and only needed five plays as Meager used his legs and scampered on a 23-yard rush up the middle. This score took the momentum and buzz out of the home crowd as the Chargers narrowed the lead 21-16 with just a little under three minutes into the second half.
On Oak Grove’s next two possessions, the Warriors found themselves in fourth- down situations. Being unsuccessful on both attempts was costly as the offensive swing shifted the Chargers way.
Oxford would took the lead with 7:05 remaining as Meaghers’ fade pass to Pegues was a successful 21-yard score. This marked a 21-point swing and gave the Chargers their second lead since being up 3-0 in the first.
Oxford put the game out of reach with another score by Meagher with a 25-yard touchdown run to the left side of the end zone. This proved too much for the Warriors as the offense struggled getting into a groove in the second half of play and giving the Chargers the 2019 6A state title.
After the heartbreaking loss, Coach Drew Causey talked about the late field goal decisions and the message to his kids.
“I just felt more confident in our offense at the time of the first attempt,” he said. “The second attempt we were on the one-yard line. We score there and the game is probably over. You go up a field and they are still in a position to score and add a two-point conversion. I just went with my gut with those calls.
“I told our guys I loved them and how proud of them I was,” Causey said. “I will talk with them more as we head into the locker room. I am extremely proud of our guys and we have had one heck of a season. I love all of our football players and our coaches.”
The Warriors finished the season at 11-4, 5-2 in district play.