HATTIESBURG – The past two seasons for Oak Grove have ended with agonizingly close defeats in the Class 6A state championship game.
Getting back to the state finals, and finishing the job, has been the motivation for the Warriors through the uncertainties of the offseason and into the 2020 season.
Friday night at Warrior Field, Oak Grove looked like it is on track for another try at a championship, demolishing Hattiesburg 66-27 in a game that was over by halftime.
The Warriors, ranked second in the SBLive Power 10 and Class 6A coaches poll, improved to 2-0; Hattiesburg, ranked fifth in Class 5A, dropped to 1-1.
“We worked super hard in the offseason, doing as much as we could with the Covid,” said senior linebacker Zach Little. “That and the two state championship losses have really got us motivated. I like our chances this season.”
The Warriors took command early, using efficient offense, swarming defense and special teams to build a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.
Oak Grove drove easily for a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, an eight-play, 71-yard march, capped by Courtland Harris’ 1-yard run.
Hattiesburg had what would be its only highlight play of the first half on the ensuing possession, when Jermaine Powell hooked up with Jermel Ford for a screen pass that went for a 67-yard scoring play.
The Warriors came right back with a quick score of their own, a 52-yard pass from Kabe Barnett to Tyrell Pollard.
“I just felt good, felt comfortable in the pocket,” said Barnett, who was 12 of 18 for 221 yards and three touchdown passes, plus he ran for another score. “Everything was working for us. We had the right play calls at the right moment.”
Hattiesburg’s kicking woes began to tell on the Tigers on the next possession. On a third-and-9 play from the Tiger 21-yard-line, Little blew up a pass play for a 7-yard sack, then fell on the ball when the ensuing punt was blocked at the goal line.
“I think we really played as team tonight,” said Little.
“We’re not as big as some defenses, but I think we make up for it in speed. We’re really looking good so far; this was a statement game for us, hopefully, it will set the tone for the rest of the year.”
The Tigers had another punt blocked that set up a 5-yard scoring drive for Oak Grove in the second quarter and lost a fumble on a high snap on a third punt.
“We were awful in the kicking game; it’s that simple,” said Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance. “It wasn’t the kicking game just the punting game. These kids aren’t going to quit. I don’t think we played with a great effort in the first half, but we’ll flush this one and get ready for next week.”
Oak Grove broke the game open in the second quarter, scoring a field goal and three touchdowns on consecutive possessions.
Harris had a 3-yard scoring run, Barnett scored on a 6-yard run, and Barnett hooked up with Jordan Coleman for a 42-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 to play in the half, giving the Warriors a 45-7 halftime lead.
For the night, Coleman caught three passes for 95 yards to lead the Warriors.
Hattiesburg was able to hit some big plays for scores in the second half, and senior quarterback Jordan Willis finished with 142 passing yards on just five completions. Joshua Jones caught four passes for 135 yards, most in the second half.
“I felt like we executed the offense well in the first half,” said Oak Grove coach Drew Causey. “I felt like we could have had two more touchdowns in the first half. We had a fumble at the end zone, when the ball popped loose, and we had to settle for a field goal another time.
“But I liked our energy and I liked our effort. Our guys came ready to play tonight.”
— Stan Caldwell
Friday at Oak Grove
Oak Grove 66, Hattiesburg 27
HHS 7 0 6 14 – 27
OG 21 24 14 7 – 66
OG – Courtland Harris 1 run (Michael Owens kick), 8:45 (8 plays/71 yards/3:15 possession).
HHS – Jermaine Powell 67 pass to Jermel Ford (Joshua Jones kick), 8:02 (2/65/0:43)
OG – Kade Barnett 52 pass to Tyrell Pollard (Owens kick), 7:10 (2/53/0:52).
OG – Zach Little blocked punt recovery in end zone (Owens kick), 5:35.
OG – Owens 24 field goal, 7:49 (6/26/2:38).
OG – Harris 3 run (Owens kick), 5:32 (2/5/0:36).
OG – Barnett 6 run (Owens kick), 2:53 (6/48/2:07).
OG – Barnett 42 pass to Jordan Coleman (Owens kick), 1:20 (2/42/0:14).
OG – Barnett 9 pass to Daniel Dawson (Owens kick), 9:00 (5/36/2:09).
HHS – Jaquez Andrews 80 run (Kick failed), 8:45 (1/80/0:15).
OG – Matthew Pollard 14 run (Owens kick), 3:55 (8/71/4:50).
H – Jordan Willis 38 pass to Jones (Willis pass to Ford), 10:00 (4/42/1:30).
OG – M. Pollard 47 pass to Foster Mitchell (Owens kick), 5:40 (7/58/4:20).
H – Willis 67 pass to Jones (Pass failed), 3:40 (5/80/2:00)
First downs 8 22
Total net yards 359 446
Rushes-yards 30-150 37-178
Passing yards 209 268
Comp-Att-Int 6-21-0 13-21-0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-3
Penalties-yards 7-48 5-45
Punts-total (avg.) 3-67 (22.3) 0-0
Sacks 0-0 3-17
Third down 1-10 4-7
Fourth down 2-4 2-2
Time of possession 21:27 26:33
Hattiesburg – Jaquez Andrew 8-104, Jordan Willis 8-53, Ellis Brown 7-8, Brian Eashmond 1-2, Chanse Ducksworth 1-3, Cameron Echols 1-0, Jermaine Powell 3-(-6), Jack Jackson 1-(-14); Oak Grove – Matthew Pollard 9-66, Courtland Harris 9-64, Eugene Newell Jr. 8-32, J.Q. Gray 4-8, Kade Barnett 1-6, Dontavious Howard 1-3, Trey Lott 2-2, Cameron Lowery 1-1, Matthew Dalebout 1-(-2), Team 1-(-2).
Hattiesburg – Jordan Willis 5-17-0-142, Jermaine Powell 1-4-0-67; Oak Grove – Kade Barnett 12-18-0-221; Matthew Pollard 1-3-0-47.
Hattiesburg – Joshua Jones 4-135, Jermel Ford 2-74; Oak Grove – Jordan Coleman 3-95, Tyrell Pollard 2-67, Foster Mitchell 1-47, Eugene Newell Jr. 2-26, Trayvon Moore 2-19, Daniel Dawson 1-9, Ahkem Toy 1-7, Michael Reese 1-4.