Christ cross

JQ Gray, No. 6 Oak Grove beat cross-town rival Hattiesburg 42-21

HATTIESBURG — Beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder, and from Drew Causey’s perspective, his team’s performance was damn good.

Oak Grove withstood a solid effort from crosstown rival Hattiesburg – with a monsoon in the second half – and came away with a 42-21 win over the Tigers on Friday night at Warrior Field.

The Warriors, ranked No. 6 in the SB Live Power 10 and fifth in the state in the Class 6A standings, went undefeated at 3-0. Hattiesburg fell to 0-3.

“We played better than last week, and that’s all I can ask for,” Causey said. We still have a lot to clean up. But when we have everything in place, we will be a very good football team.

Oak Grove still wasn’t firing on all cylinders offensively, but the Warriors managed to get their passing game going well enough to win comfortably.

The most important thing was getting the ball into the hands of senior JQ Gray, who had 18 touches for 105 yards and four touchdowns.

“Just a good night overall for the team to beat our crosstown rivals,” said Gray, who rushed 15 times for 39 yards and caught three passes for 76 yards.

“Everyone came out, did their part and played with maximum effort throughout the game. It was just another night for me. I just have to do what I have to do to win the game. I want the job; that’s how I want it to be.

Gray set the tone for Oak Grove on his first possession of the game, after stopping the Tigers on a three-and-out in the game’s first practice.

A short punt gave the Warriors the ball at the Hattiesburg 44-yard line, and they needed only five plays to reach the end zone. On a third-and-5 from the Tiger 18, junior quarterback AJ Maddox found Gray wide open on a crossover route and Gray swooped in intact for the score.

“We watched it on film and saw they weren’t going with the crossover motion,” Gray said. “They just told me to sweep under the offensive line and catch the little slippery pass.”

Hattiesburg came out offensively in a purely wild formation, out of necessity. Senior MJ Boykin carried the ball in the Tigers’ first 10 games after being put on duty through injury.

Freshman Tristen Keys, who started last week’s game against Ocean Springs, was sidelined with a hand injury and was unable to play.

“Well, we’re out of quarterbacks,” Hattiesburg head coach Tony Vance said. “(Keys) has an injury that doesn’t allow him to throw.

“Necessity is the mother of all inventions, isn’t it? But I’m proud of Malcolm; He did an excellent job. Hopefully we start bringing some of our injured players back into attack.

Indeed, Boykin was a jack-of-all-trades for the Tigers, running 23 times for 91 yards, and he also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It was Boykin who brought Hattiesburg back into the game late in the second quarter, after Oak Grove took a 14-0 lead.

“He’s a very good football player,” Causey said. “For us, it’s hard to prepare, because you don’t know who’s going to play quarterback, and you’re not really sure what they’re going to do on offense.”

The Warriors scored early in the second quarter when backup quarterback Jack Crawford found junior PJ Woodland open on the other side of the field for a 46-yard touchdown. Crawford came in when Maddox was lightly bumped on the previous game.

And it was yet another third conversion for Oak Grove, which had 7 of 10 third downs.

But it was Boykin who started the Tiger’s offense with an eight-play, 40-yard drive, getting most of the yardage on a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Le Branden Graham, who made a minimal catch after the fall of Defender Warrior. .

Boykin also executed the conversion on a false kick to reduce Oak Grove’s margin to 14-8. And Hattiesburg got the ball back straight away when the Tigers managed to convert a kick into play, winning the ball back at the Warrior 42.

Boykin did it with his legs, covering the distance on 27 and 20 yard runs, with the touchdown coming after a false start penalty. A kick attempt failed, but the Tigers had tied it 14-14 with 3:59 remaining before halftime.

“(Hattiesburg) has a good team; I don’t care what their record says,” Causey said.

“When you lose your starting quarterback, your backup quarterback – who is also your best running back – then you lose the guy who played last week. Once they get these guys healthy, they’re going to cause trouble in 5A.

It probably shouldn’t have been this close, though, as Oak Grove lost a fumble inside the Tiger’s 1-yard line on the first play of the second quarter.

Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for the Warriors to respond, going for 65 yards in six plays, scoring on a 55-yard pass from Maddox to junior Damari Jefferson, reclaiming a 21-14 lead with 1:20 left in the game. half.

And that’s when the skies opened up and a deluge started, and it might have cost Hattiesburg a chance to tie the game just before half-time.

Boykin found Graham along the left sideline for a 61-yard catch to Warrior 1, but on the next play the wet ball slipped from his hands and the Warriors recovered at the 4-yard line.

“He does everything we want him to do, attack, defense, in the kicking game,” Vance said. “Everything we need. He will sleep well tonight.

“Right now we’re just trying to improve. One thing I’m proud of is that these guys are going to compete every week, regardless of the score. They will give everything. »

The downpour continued into the fourth quarter, but the Warriors finally found their in-sync offense late in the third quarter, rushing for 63 yards on nine plays for a touchdown.

A 25-yard pass to Gray, with a 15-yard face mask penalty added, brought Oak Grove into the red zone, a 9-yard pass from Maddox to Jefferson on third down brought it to the Tiger 9, and Gray broke down the middle for the score.

“We go into the 1 and fumble the ball; it’s 49 points,” Causey said. “We go into the 20s and don’t score – and I attribute that to poor play on my part. So that’s 56 points.

“You take away the monsoon we played in the third quarter, I thought our offense played pretty well for the most part. JQ can do a lot for us. We can put him as an outside receiver, running back. He’s just one hell of a football player. I’m happy he’s playing for us.

Oak Grove went 35-14 early in the final period, when Gray dove for a touchdown after junior defensive tackle Caleb Moore caught Boykin’s pass in the backfield and rumbled toward Hattiesburg 1.

But Boykin atoned for the error on the ensuing kickoff by breaking a touchdown tackle and entering the open field, passing the chase for an 85-yard touchdown play.

Gray, however, put the icing on the cake for Oak Grove, scoring from 4 yards out midway through the fourth quarter.

The Warriors will be back home next Thursday when they host John Curtis Christian in Louisiana. Hattiesburg will be on the road against next Friday at Meridian.