Warriors welcome Panthers in rivalry showdown

By JESSE JOHNSON,

The Petal Panthers and Oak Grove Warriors will face off in a rivalry showdown Friday night.

Petal is fresh off a division win with an overtime victory against second-ranked Pearl, whereas Oak Grove lost to George County 24-20. Petal comes into this week’s matchup 4-1, with Oak Grove sporting a 3-2 record. Sixteen miles separate the two schools making each team very familiar with each other.

The two teams squared up a couple of times in 2018, with the Warriors winning the regular season matchup and also the playoff game.

This year both schools are just as fast and physical, and look to their playmakers on offense and consistent defenses to lead the way.

Last Friday’s huge victory for the Panthers will be short lived. Tough division games must be forgotten because focus has to be on the next game, especially against a stout offensive threat in Oak Grove.

“We told our kids Friday night and going into the weekend that we have to change our focus on the upcoming game,” Petal Coach Marcus Boyles said. “Certainly it’s another big ballgame for us. Rivalry and district games make it more challenging for us, and we have to shift our focus on the task ahead. This past win has given us the confidence we need to finish out the year. Our main concern is handling the success of a quality win and making sure we execute what we have worked on through the first half of the season.”

The Oak Grove offense through five games is averaging 201 passing yards and 152 rushing yards per game. Senior running back Nick Milsap has contributed to 402 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. In the passing game, senior Damon Stewart has connected with seniors Travion Smith and Brandon Hayes for 604 yards and nine touchdowns, bringing his total to 1,006 passing yards through the season.

Petal has contributed to very high offensive production as well. Lead by a two-headed monster in the backfield, seniors Rashad Hanaford and Micah Mcgowen have totaled more than 850 yards of offense and found the end zone nine times. Senior Decarlos Nicholson adds 581 yards passing with five touchdowns. His overtime pass won the game for the Panthers and he has shown that leadership skill to take over any game.

Moving forward for the Warriors, Coach Drew and his team know that staying focused on the task ahead is the most important thing.

“They have a really good football team in Petal,” Causey said. “Our main thing is getting better this week. We are locked in and focused on just that, doing things the right way and executing.”

There will be no shortage of offense Friday night. Two good offenses, two great-coached teams and a bit of a past between the two should make for one exciting ballgame.

Kickoff is set for 7 pm at Oak Grove.

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