HATTIESBURG – Down a couple of defensive ends, including Mississippi State commit Jack Harris, the Oak Grove Warriors defense answered the bell Friday night against Meridian.
In return, the Warriors put together their most all-around dominant performance of the season – factoring in competition – defeating the Wildcats 37-6 at Warrior Field. Oak Grove moves to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the difficult Region 3-6A.
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“Defensively, I thought we played very, very well,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “(Meridian) is an electric offense and our guys did a great job.”
Senior Thomas Holford is known for playing on the offensive line, but with the injuries on defense, he flipped to the other side of the ball this week. He was the first player’s name out of Causey’s mouth when talking about the defensive performance, too.
“It’s just the next man up,” Holford said. “You really, really hate it for the players who were injured, but we had to carry the torch and do what the team expects out of us. Everybody was just really zoned in. We went long hours, worked on stuff and watched film a lot. It was just a really crisp week of practice for us.”
Holford, a transfer from Presbyterian Christian, didn’t come out on defense while still playing 10 plays on offense. Playing both sides of the ball is nothing new for him, but the level of competition was certainly higher.
“It was a little more tiring because the players are better, there’s more of them and they’re more athletic,” Holford said. “It was very tiring and new for me. I’ve done it before but it was much more challenging tonight.”
Oak Grove held Meridian to 177 yards of total offense (87 rushing and 90 passing) while holding the Wildcats to eight first downs. It wasn’t just the defensive line, but the linebackers made plays, too and the secondary broke up a few passes downfield. Sophomore Zach Little collected an interception late in the game to put the game on ice.
The defensive game plan was pretty simple – contain Meridian quarterback Tevarrius Adams. On top of his 90 passing yards and an interception, he was held to 63 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“That was really it,” Causey said of the game plan. “Just try to keep him in the pocket and don’t let him get loose. When he gets loose, you see it on film, he makes a lot of people miss and can make a lot of big plays. Our guys did a great job of containing him all night long.”
Offensively, it took a couple of drives before the Warriors could find their footing. Besides a 34-yard field in the first quarter that was set up from a fumble recovery by Oak Grove junior Liam Breithaupt on a Meridian punt return, the Warriors offense sputtered.
Senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee got things started with a 75-yard touchdown run to give Oak Grove a 9-0 lead, and that fired up the offense for the rest of the game. It scored on its next two possession to take a big lead into halftime. Junior Nick Milsap scored from the 2-yard line to take a 16-0 advantage, then a Plumlee to senior Tyson Keys connection from the 1-yard line pushed it to 23-0.
Sophomore E.J. Newell and Plumlee added two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns from the 5- and 9-yard lines, respectively, to finish off the Warriors’ scoring.
Plumlee totaled 232 yards on 22-for-27 passing through the air while adding 146 rushing yards on 11 carries. Junior receiver Tavion Smith benefited the most, grabbing seven passes for 104 yards.
Meridian prevented a shutout with a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the third quarter.
Oak Grove travels to Terry next week.