HATTIESBURG — Whatever Oak Grove coach Drew Causey told his team and whatever they did in practice during the past week, it worked to perfection.
The top-ranked Warriors roared out of the locker room at the outset and left Pearl trampled in the wake. Oak Grove rolled to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 47-7 victory in a Region 3-6A contest Friday night at Warrior Field.
Oak Grove, ranked No. 1 in both the SBLive Power 10 rankings and Class 6A coaches poll, remained undefeated atop the region standings at 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the region. The Warriors can clinch the outright region title and the top seed for the playoffs with a win next week at Northwest Rankin.
Despite the loss, Pearl (3-6, 3-3) remains in the playoff hunt heading into next week’s regular season finale against Brandon.
Oak Grove’s dominance came a week after staving off an upset bid in a 24-22 win over Brandon, an effort that left a bad taste in the mouths of the Warrior coaches and players.
“We just discussed the way we prepared, and our preparation throughout the week, things like that,” said Causey. “It was a lot better this week.”
Was it ever.
Oak Grove scored touchdowns on its four possessions in the first quarter, all of which took exactly 11 plays, and 3:32 of playing time. The Warriors added another touchdown less than two minutes into the second quarter, and took a 37-7 lead into halftime.
“I just felt comfortable,” said Oak Grove junior quarterback Kabe Barnett. “Any time I saw that I could make a play, I tried to make something happen.”
Barnett was simply sensational against the Pirates, who had no defense for him or his many weapons. Barnett completed 11 of 18 passes for 276 yards and five touchdown passes, and he ran three times for 33 yards, the big run a 22-yard dash for the Warriors’ third score.
In particular, the Pirates had no answer for speedy junior Tyrell Pollard, who caught four passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first quarter.
“He’s always able to get open, no matter what kind of defense he plays against,” said Barnett. “So, I just give him a chance.”
That was evident on the second play of the game, when Pollard blew through a busted coverage over the middle, and Barnett hit him in stride for a 54-yard touchdown. Michael Owens’ PAT kick was blocked, but that was about the only mistake Oak Grove made all night.
Pearl had a glimmer of an opportunity on its first possession, when senior quarterback Shade Foster overthrew a wide-open Alex Spires down the middle on a third-down pass play.
That miss proved especially costly on the next play, when Foster was ruled down after his knee hit the ground while fielding a low snap on a punt attempt, giving Oak Grove the ball at the Pirate 20-yard-line.
The Warriors quickly made the Pirates pay, as Barnett and Pollard hooked up for an 8-yard scoring pass on the third play of the drive.
After another three-and-out, Oak Grove needed just five plays to motor 60 yards, with Barnett carrying four would-be tacklers into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown run.
“He did a great job for us tonight,” said Causey. “The O-line did a great job blocking for him, and he did a great job of finding the wideouts. He ran the ball really hard, and that’s the thing I’m most proud of for him.”
The Oak Grove defense gave Barnett another short field on the next series, when junior cornerback Dontavious Howard stepped in front of an attempted swing pass and carried the theft to the Pearl 22.
“We just had to come out and execute,” said Howard. “We just had to do what we had to do to win. You’ve got to have that doggedness and want to do it.”
Form there, it was easy pickings as Barnett and Pollard connected for the third score on the next play.
When the defense got another stop, Oak Grove needed just two plays to cover 80 yards. Barnett found tight end Traveon Moore for a 63-yard pickup, then threw to senior Rakeem Fairley for a 17-yard score.
Not only was the offense in control, but when the Warriors were finally stopped, they still converted a 45-yard field goal by Owens, who added a 37-yard kick in the fourth quarter, and did not punt at all.
In all, the Warriors held Pearl to just 189 yards of offense, and 55 of those yards came on one play, a 55-yard pass from Foster to Spires for the Pirates’ only score, late in the second quarter.
The Pirates had a good drive going to start the second half, driving to the Warriors 30, but sophomore defensive back Jaylen Aborom picked off Foster in the end zone and carried the ball out to the Oak Grove 41.
Starting from the Pirates’ 44 after a penalty on the interception, Oak Grove needed seven plays to score again, with Barnett finishing his night with a 16-yard touchdown pass to sophomore J.Q. Gray.
Although the ultimate prize for Oak Grove is a state championship, after coming up just short the past two seasons in the 6A final, the first step is winning the region, which the Warriors can do with a win next week.
“That’s been one of our team goals all season, to win the region championship,” said Causey. “We’re going to go up there and see what we can do.”