Oak Grove hungry for State TitleBy JESSE JOHNSON,
And then there were two…
The Oak Grove Warriors find themselves back in M.M. Roberts Stadium for the second year in a row after a 35-28 South State championship win on the road against Petal.
The Warriors have had a few bumps in the road. After starting the year 3-0, the team in black and gold went on a three-game losing streak.
One of those losses came at the hands of the Petal Panthers.
Stewart AT QB
The game started in Petal’s favor, but OG quarterback Damon Stewart stepped up to the challenge with another stellar performance going 14 of 19 with 251 yards passing and four touchdowns. His play throughout the playoffs has been red hot and he’s recognized throughout the field house as the leader of the pack.
“Damon’s confidence level has been really high,” head coach Drew Causey said. “Having a better understanding on what we expect out of him has gotten him to the level of play that we feel can compete with anyone in the state. He is playing some really good football right now.”
Stewart stepped into the position with big shoes to fill. John Rhys Plumlee, who graduated last year and went on to play quarterback for Ole Miss, had accounted for 4,278 total yards and 52 touchdowns. He had, in his own way, created a legacy at Oak Grove in just one season of play.
Throughout the playoffs, Stewart, a Georgia transfer, has found the end zone with his arm 12 times on 33-50 passes and has amassed 675 yards per contest. His hot hand couldn’t have come at a better time as the Warriors avenged the Week Five loss and are now set to avenge last year’s 6A State Championship game.
With Stewart’s leadership under center, the Warriors have won eight straight ball games. During that time, Oak Grove’s offense has averaged 40 points per game while only allowing an average of 17.
A defensive stand
With the offense getting most of the shine, it’s the Warriors’ defense that has silently created a stance. The Warriors have only allowed 136 points in the previous eight games.
“Throughout the season the talk has been how small we are on defense,” Causey said. “This group plays with as much toughness as any group I have coached. They leave it all out on the field and that’s exactly what you want out of your team.”
The taste of a state championship is still lingering as the Warriors fell short last season with a 31-27 loss to Horn Lake. Causey talked about this group’s attitude after the win and how hungry this bunch is to get the job done this season.
“Winning the South State game last year was very emotional for us,” Causey said. “There is a different mentality with this year’s South State championship. Although we were very happy with the result, after the game was over our kids celebrated for a minute and three or four of our seniors stepped up and said, ‘We aren’t done. This job is not finished yet.’ We have set our minds to something bigger and better. We have a really tough opponent and have to be ready.”
An Oxford challenge
Standing in the Warriors way is Oxford.
After a Week Two loss to Starkville, the Chargers have won 12 straight games highlighted with a win against No. 3 South Panola (second round of playoffs) and avenging their Week Two loss to No. 1 Starkville. A win over Starkville sent the Chargers into the State Championship game.
The 13-1 Chargers are averaging 113 yards passing and 174 yards receiving.
Leading the way under center for the Chargers is quarterback John Meager. The 6”1’ 195-lb. senior has 1,521 yards on the season with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But it’s the legs of the duel-threat quarterback that have him circled on the radar. Meager has rushed for 865 yards and has added 11 rushing touchdowns as he is leading his team in that category. Maeger is committed to play next year at Navy.
Another offensive star for the Chargers is four-star athlete Jeremiah Pegues. The 6”4’ 280-lb. back/receiver has a massive presence on the field. Pegues is second on the team in rushing with 588 yards and has 12 rushing touchdowns. He also has 500 yards receiving and has added five receiving touchdowns. The senior has offers from Auburn, Alabama, and Ole Miss.
With all the hype surrounding Pegues, it’s the defense that stands out statistically. The Chargers have an astounding 38.5 sacks this season and have intercepted the ball 18 times. That’s a little more than two sacks per game and at least one interception as well.
The Chargers’ defense has held its opponents to 10 points or less in 10 games and is allowing 8.42 points per game, outscoring the opponents 433-118 on the season.
“It all starts with their head coach (Chris Cutcliffe),” Causey said. “He does such a great job in leading those guys. They do what they do and they do it well. Pegues on the offensive side is their playmaker. He is a big athlete and they will try their best to run the offense through him. Their quarterback is a talented guy. You know he will have a lot of intangibles with him because of his commitment to Navy. You’ve got to be a special kid to go to a school like Navy.”
The home team
With Oak Grove only having to travel about six miles to the Southern Miss campus, Causey expects Warrior Nation to fill the stands in record numbers.
“We want everyone to show up and be as loud as possible, wear black and bring their cow bells,” he said. “This team has done a great job playing hard and trying to be the best we can be. It would be nice to see them open up the upper deck for us this year. That would be nice. We are very appreciative of our fan base and we expect the game to be a high-energy affair.”
The 6A Championship kickoff is set for 7pm at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Friday, December 6.