In the last two seasons, quarterback play at Oak Grove was crucial in the Warriors’ back-to-back appearances in the state championship game.
After the 2018 season, the Warriors had the daunting task of trying to find the replacement of John Rhys Plumlee. In that season, Plumlee threw for 2,834 yards, rushed for 1,444 and was responsible for 52 touchdowns.
After a head-scratching and competitive offseason, the Warriors found their replacement with Damon Stewart who threw 2,350 yards, ran for 1,327 yards and scored 39 touchdowns.
It’s safe to say that the next replacement has a bar to follow. But despite last season’s quarterback competition, the Warriors will look to junior Kabe Barnett to take the reins.
“We think the sky is the limit for Kabe,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “He is very talented. Has a canon for an arm. There is a lot of things that he needs to improve on, but I think with a few games under his belt and getting that confidence he’ll improve. I think he has a chance to be a really good player.”
Barnett is no stranger to Oak Grove football as his brother, Kevin, was a former Warrior wide receiver and instrumental in helping Oak Grove through the 2018 playoffs. Barnett was also in the mix to for the starting quarterback job in 2019 as a sophomore.
“Unless he decides he’s not going to play then he is our starter,” Causey said. “As a sophomore Kabe went through the whole spring as our starter. Then Damon moved in and we had a meeting and told our guys that we have a kid who has moved in and registered with the school. He’ll have a chance to compete. I think being a sophomore it’s always tough to start especially at the 6A level. We had a few that did last year. It’s normally the hardest year for a high school player because they go from being the guy in the ninth, eighth and seventh grade to being on a team with a hundred other kids and there is a bunch that are older than you.”
The 6-foot-2-inches quarterback has a strong amount of experience for a backup and is also notably one of the tallest quarterback the Warriors have had in recent years. Last season, Barnett saw action in four games against Wayne County, Gulfport, Meridian and Terry. Barnett finished 5-for-10 and threw two touchdowns against Meridian and threw a pair of interceptions.
“He played a good bit last year,” Causey said. “He played a lot against Meridian. He threw a couple of touchdown passes against Meridian and saw a lot of good things. We saw a lot that we liked in him. He definitely has a chance to be really good.”
In addition, another key difference between Barnett and his predecessors is that he is not exactly a dual threat and will focus on throwing the ball.
“He can run the ball when he needs too,” Causey said. “I don’t think he’ll be a guy that we’ll necessarily call a ton of quarterback runs with, but when he needs to run he’ll be able to. He’ll run some power read and things like that. It’s going to be different to when we had five or six designed runs for per game. We may have one or two, but I think his best attributes are facilitating the offense and getting the ball to the playmakers and let them do the work.”
According to Causey, the strongest quality Barnett has at quarterback is his arm.
“When you see him throw he has a rocket launcher attached to it,” Causey said. “He can throw it. He is one of the better passers that I think we have had the past few years just when it comes to arm strength and throwing the football and things like that. The biggest thing for him is getting comfortable and realizing that he has a good offensive line that is going to protect him and realize that he is going to take some hits but will make the throws.”
While Causey has confidence in Barnett’s skill set to be the Warriors’ next quarterback, his main concern is for Barnett to find his voice as a leader.
“I feel like if he just distributes the football and does what he is supposed to do there then he will be able to ease into the offense,” Causey said. “It’s not going to be one of those things like having to run the whole offense and the show kind of like Plumlee out the gate. We’ll be able to ease him into it and figure out his path.
“He knows the offense really well. The biggest thing with him is getting him a lot more vocal and being more of a leader out there. After a couple of ball games. He’ll be great.”