Oak Grove playing well entering brutal two-game stretch

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Oak Grove Warriors have put themselves in position to compete for a region title with two big games on the horizon. With a 4-0 region record, Oak Grove welcomes Brandon and Pearl – both 4-0 as well – for back-to-back games at Warrior Field.

It starts with Brandon Friday night, and the Warriors are playing really well heading into the contest.

“We’ve done a good job the last few weeks of taking care of business and doing what we’re supposed to do. We have two tough ones coming up,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. 

Oak Grove has scored at least 34 points in three of the four region games it’s played, while the defense has allowed less than 10 points in those same games. After a tough win over rival Petal, the Warriors beat Meridian 37-6 and Terry 34-6.

A lot of the success on offense is due to quarterback John Rhys Plumlee’s play, but also a few skill positions players have stepped up in recent weeks. Combined with the outstanding play from the defensive side of the ball and offensive line, the Warriors have become a legitimate contender in 6A.

Causey has a simple reason for why Oak Grove has looked good the last couple of weeks.

“We’ve just gotten to work and they’ve worked hard,” he said. “We’ve just been playing pretty good and doing really well on defense. We’ve been able to get our offense a short field just about every game at some point in the game, so our kids are just playing hard.”

Junior Tavion Smith has stepped up at receiver, too. After his first 100-receiving-yard game two weeks ago against Meridian, he exceeded his personal best again with a 138-yard, four-reception game last week at Terry.

He’s had 240 receiving yards the last two weeks, which is more than the first five games combined.

“He’s doing really well,” Causey said. “Coming into the season he was probably the No. 3 receiver and he’s stepped up. He’s getting his confidence up to make those plays and be the big-play receiver. I’m happy for him and proud of the effort he’s shown.”

Brandon (8-1, 4-0) has won some impressive games this season, so it’s battle-tested heading into Friday night. With wins over Madison Central, Tupelo and Northwest Rankin, like Oak Grove, the Bulldogs still have the toughest games of the region schedule left ahead of them.

The Bulldogs’ balanced offense has multiple playmakers on the field at one time. Junior quarterback Will Rogers has 1,829 passing yards, senior Jonathan Mingo has 918 receiving yards and senior Dallas Smith is a 1,157-yard rusher.

As a team, Brandon has scored at least 34 points in all but two games and in six straight games. It was held to 14 points in both the loss to Clinton and the win over Madison Central.

“They’re extremely talented and extremely well coached,” Causey said of the Brandon offense. “They don’t have one guy you can focus your attention on and say, ‘We have to stop this guy.’ They have multiple guys who can make a lot of plays, and it all starts with the quarterback. He throws the ball really well and he has one of the best, if not the best, receivers in the state. Those are guys we have to stop.”

Defensively, only two teams scored more than 20 points. Petal put up 21 two weeks ago, and South Panola did the same in another Brandon win. In Brandon’s lone loss to Clinton, the Arrows only scored 19 points.

Through nine games, the Bulldogs have collected 57 tackles of a loss, 19 sacks, eight interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

“They’re a defense that likes to create havoc,” Causey said. “They like to bring a lot of pressure, they like to do a lot of blitzing and they do a great job of getting after you. They fly to the football, so it’ll definitely be a good challenge this week.”