Oak Grove set to host first playoff game since 2015

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Oak Grove Warriors had to sit around and wait to see where they’d play in the first round of the 6A playoffs. After defeating Jim Hill last Thursday, the result of the Brandon-Pearl game Friday night determined whether the Warriors hosted this Friday night or traveled to the coast to begin the playoffs.

After Brandon beat Pearl 14-10, the matchup with Harrison Central coming to Warrior Field was set. Kickoff for the Red Rebels (8-3) and Oak Grove (9-2) is 7 p.m. in Hattiesburg. Friday night’s winner will play either Gulfport or Petal in the second round.

“We were really excited,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “For our guys to get another chance to play at home, it’s always good.”

For those guys who get to play another game at home, the seniors were freshmen the last time Oak Grove was in the postseason, so there might be a learning curve. The playoffs have a different intensity about them, but the experience of playing in Region 3-6A will pay dividends, Causey believes.

“We’re just going to approach it like we’ve approached a lot of our region games,” he said. “Our region is so tough, we played a lot of tough opponents, so we’ll just approach it like it’s the next game. We’ll just keep going.”

Harrison Central comes to town on the heels of a 24-21 loss to Ocean Springs, which sent the Greyhounds to the No. 2 seed and the Red Rebels to third. Their two other losses came to Gulfport (42-21) and in the season-opener to Jefferson Davis County (17-7).

The Rebels averaged 180 rushing yards and 160 passing yards per game, as they have two running backs with at least 600 yards on the ground. Sophomore Jaidon McClain leads the way with 625 rushing yards and five scores on 92 carries, and junior Gino Johnson has a team-high 114 rushing attempts with 611 yards and a pair of scores.

When it comes to how Harrison Central uses its two running backs, it’s very similar to Oak Grove’s style. Harrison Central just splits the carries between the two, as the Warriors do with Nick Milsap and a handful of other backs on the team.

“It’s about how we use all of ours,” Causey said. “It’s nothing major or special, but it’s just really similar to how we use all the running backs we’ve got.”

Senior Dayln Anderson has passed for 1,753 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 56 percent passing, and sophomore Jacobi Moore leads the team with 603 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Two other receivers have at least 400 yards receiving, too.

Harrison Central averages 27 points per game while allowing 18 points to its opponents.

“They’re talented,” Causey said of Harrison Central’s defense. “They’re quick up front and they like to play a lot of man coverage, so they definitely present some problems. They like to bring pressure and they just have a good team.”

Defensively, the Red Rebels have 40 sacks, 14 interceptions and six fumble recoveries in 2018. Senior Azhani Ray leads the team with five picks while freshman Javier Simmons adds four.