Oak Grove opens its 2020 season against a familiar opponent – Gulfport.
Last year, Gulfport finished 10-3, with two of their losses coming against Oak Grove. The Warriors defeated Gulfport 37-13 in the regular season and again 42-24 in the playoffs.
This season, Gulfport’s strength is in its defense as the Admirals return nine starters from a defense that held teams to 23 points per game.
“We’re going to scheme with what we are expecting them to do,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “It’s a new team and a new year. The first game of the season should be a lot of fun. We’ll have to figure some things out on the fly, but it should be fun.
“Last year, they ran a four-down front like a Cover-3 is what we are expecting,” Causey said. “That’s what they are going to do and bring some pressure every now and then.”
Linebackers Jakylon Campbell and Reggie Buggs return a combined 156 tackles. The Admirals also return four starters in its secondary that returns 233 tackles and four interceptions.
“(To prepare), you go off things they did last year,” Causey said. “We played them twice last year. The first time they played a 3-Man Front, then a 4-man front the second time and combined them in the playoff game. Playing them twice last year, we got to see how they attack us offensively. They may have their tweaks here and there, but what they do is what they believe in.”
Offensively, Gulfport has to replace almost its entire offense, including its quarterback, top running back and top wide receiver.
Like Oak Grove, the Admirals will have a new quarterback under center. Senior Breck LeFlore will get the start. Last season he was 1-of-4 and passed for 13 yards.
“They are going to be breaking in a new quarterback,” Causey said. “They lost their quarterback and top receiver, but they have won a lot of ball games. They probably have guys that are kind of like us that are waiting in the wings to play. I’m expecting a good game Friday.”
The Admirals do return running back William Jones. Jones, who tore his ACL with two games left in the season, rushed for 272 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last week, Gulfport came away with a 7-0 win its scrimmage against St. Stanislaus while Oak Grove’s scrimmage against Harrison Central was canceled. According to Causey, losing the scrimmage was not a loss for his team, but instead, the bigger focus is preparing his team for a different atmosphere on Friday nights.
“I think the scrimmage is good, and I wish we would have played,” Causey said. “But you’re only playing two quarters, so I think for us it was a chance to not get anybody injured. We did a lot of scrimmaging ourselves during the week.
“I tried to explain to the guys for the last two weeks that these Friday nights are going to be completely different than any Friday night they have been a part of. When we play a home game, there is normally between 6,000 and 7,000 people who are showing up. It’s packed, and there is a lot of energy. The student section has its cowbells going crazy. Now you are looking at 1,500 to 2,000 people a game. There is so much unknown, and the atmosphere will be different. I’ve stressed that to our guys. You’ll have to bring your own energy and attack it that way.”