PETAL – Trailing to their archrival Petal 16-12, the Oak Grove Warriors pulled a page out of Picayune’s playbook.
The Warriors put senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee under center and ran power toss plays one after another to move down the field and regain the 19-16 lead. It’s a play Picayune has been running successfully for years, and it helped give the struggling Oak Grove offense momentum it needed late in the game to earn the 26-19 win over the Panthers.
“Coach (Russell) Mitchell, our offensive coordinator, spent eight years in Picayune and that’s what they do,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said.
Causey told Mitchell on Sunday to install the wrinkle because he saw something on film. Plumlee saw the same thing, and he executed the plays to move the offense down the field to put the Warriors back on top.
“We saw on film that a team ran it very well against (Petal), so we decided to put it in,” Plumlee said. “Our coaches had the confidence in us, in our linemen, our running backs and our H-backs that we really could be hardnosed and get tough yards consistently without having mistakes. It did good stuff for us, for sure.”
The Warriors’ offense was struggling prior to that go-ahead drive. Since they took a 12-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Warriors punted on back-to-back possessions to close out the first half, then they started the third quarter with two three-and-outs and a fumble.
They needed something to change.
Oak Grove still needed a fourth down conversion to keep the drive alive, though, and sophomore E.J. Newell came through in the moment. Newell was primarily used in the power toss plays, but Oak Grove went back to shotgun for the fourth down try. Newell took a handoff to the right side to get the fourth-and-3, but he didn’t stop there.
Seemingly stopped by Petal’s defense, he kept moving his feet and pushed the pile 10 more yards to complete the 18-yard gain.
“That’s something we’ve talked about for three or four weeks,” Causey said. “I’ve gone back and shown them clips of a playoff game in 2014 when we did that in south state. We faked a punt and we didn’t get the first down and the whole punt team pushed us another 10 yards. I’ve just kind of used that as an example. That’s what we want and that’s what great football teams do.”
Two plays later, Plumlee connected with senior Tyson Keys for a 7-yard touchdown to give the Warriors a 19-16 advantage. But, Petal answered with a 22-yard field goal to tie the game with a little more than two minutes to go.
It was just enough time for more late-game heroics from Plumlee. He moved the offense 70 yards quickly and capped it off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak to put Oak Grove back on top 26-19.
“Great players make great plays in great ballgames, and that’s what Plumlee did tonight down there at the end,” Causey said. “He came and said he wanted the ball and he scored.”
When these teams played last year, Petal stopped Plumlee near the goal line to seal a Panthers’ win. He wasn’t going to let that happen this year.
“It was almost a flashback from last year,” Plumlee said. “I told myself and I told my team, ‘We’re not coming up short again.' I think this team, selfishly, really wanted this game. The fight throughout this game, I think it really showed.”
Oak Grove (5-1, 2-0 in Region 3-6A) hosts Meridian next week, while Petal (1-5, 0-2) will travel to Brandon.