Hattiesburg takes down Oak Grove to remain unbeatenBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – “A-T-M”.
It, of course, means “automated touchdown machine”, and it’s all Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance could say when asked about scoring 42 points on Oak Grove.
The Hattiesburg Tigers found the chink in the Oak Grove defensive armor Friday night, en route to a 42-28 win at D.I. Patrick Stadium. It was Vance’s first victory over the Warriors, losing his first five meetings with the rival through his first four years at Hattiesburg.
“I thought the guys came out with probably some of the best energy I’ve ever seen as a football coach,” Vance said. “The enthusiasm, the excitement, and they let it play.”
Tigers’ quarterback Jarod "Snoop" Conner scored four of his team’s six touchdowns, and all four were on the ground. He finished with 17 carries for 110 yards and the four scores, while passing for 222 yards on 11-of-20 passing.
“He’s been that way all year for us,” Vance said. “We’ll expect him to continue to play that way. … He’s more confident. He’s a great kid. He’s great to be around, and good things happen to good people.”
After Hattiesburg defensive back Raykell Ducksworth intercepted Oak Grove’s pass on its first play of the game, Conner began his night by completing passes to junior Darius Ruffin, who caught 6 passes for 142 yards, but the opening drive stalled deep in Oak Grove territory.
After that, he would lead his offense on three consecutive scoring drives, pushing the Hattiesburg lead to 20-0. After the Warriors scored to cut it to 20-6, Conner nearly had a touchdown pass to a wide-open senior running back Fabian Franklin, but the two had miscommunication and the ball fell incomplete with just seconds remaining in the half.
Conner would come back out in final two quarters and score rushing touchdowns from the 3-, 8- and 31-yard lines.
“The holes were wide open,” Conner said.
The first of his three second-half touchdowns came when his team had the 20-6 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter. Facing a third-and-10 from the Hattiesburg 34, Conner found Ruffin for a 57-yard gain to the Oak Grove 9. Franklin rushed it to the 3-yard line two plays later, and Conner finished it off to push the lead to 28-6.
Oak Grove scored back-to-back touchdowns on its next two drives to make it a 28-20 game, but Conner quickly moved his team 55 yards to extend the lead. He completed a 16-yard pass to Franklin and a 36-yarder to Ruffin, then he capped off the drive with an 8-yard score to make it 35-20.
On the next drive, Conner found some space on the right side to score from the 31-yard line to give the Tigers a commanding 42-20 lead with three and a half minutes left in the game.
The Hattiesburg defense
The Tigers’ defense made the presence known from the start of the game. Ducksworth intercepted Jack Harris’ pass on the opening snap, and the Tigers’ defense collected another interception in the fourth quarter when senior linebacker Dexter Jordan grabbed sophomore Landon Forbes’ pass.
Hattiesburg also held Oak Grove to just 89 total yards in the first half to allow the offense to extend the lead to as much as 20. Then in the second half, the Tigers’ made key stops when Oak Grove started to build momentum.
After Oak Grove scored on back-to-back drives in the third quarter to cut the Hattiesburg lead to 28-20, the Tigers’ defense forced Oak Grove into a three-and-out and Jordan snagged his interception to allow Conner and the offense to score two more touchdowns to extend the lead.
No John Rhys Plumlee
With junior starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee out with an arm injury, Oak Grove started the game with junior Jack Harris as quarterback in its ‘jumbo’ package, but after the game-starting interception, sophomore Landon Forbes entered the contest.
The offense began the game with an interception, three-and-out, three-and-out, a punt after one first down and another three-and-out before finding pay dirt. Sophomore Brandon Hayes took the first snap on the team’s sixth possession 80 yards on a wide receiver speed-sweep play.
Senior running back Orlando Simon only had 11 rushing yards in the first half, but he had some more openings in the second half to finish the night with 135 yards on 17 carries with a 53-yard touchdown.
“We just started blocking,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said of the difference in the two halves. We weren’t finishing blocks in the first half like we’ve done through the first three weeks, and we finally started finishing blocks and doing what we were supposed to do.”
Forbes even started to play better as the game progressed. He completed a couple of passes to junior receiver Kevin Barnett, one for a 63-yard touchdown, and he also had a 36-yard completion to junior Rasaiah Ruffin.
“I thought he did pretty well,” Causey said. “There are some balls that he’d like to have back and I’d like to have back, but for a sophomore coming in, in a tough ballgame with a packed crowd, I’m proud of him.”
Forbes finished the night with 125 yards on 7-of-13 passing.
Vance said after the game there wasn’t a change of game plan when he found out Plumlee wasn’t playing.
When asked for a timetable on Plumlee’s injury, Causey answered with, “We’re not talking injuries.”
Both Hattiesburg (4-0) and Oak Grove (3-1) have bye weeks before starting district play on Friday, Sept. 22.