HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As expected, offensive fireworks flashed and crashed across Warrior Field Friday night as two Pine Belt prep football titans squared off in a battle of unbeatens.
Yet, despite both combining for nearly 1,000 yards in total offense, only one team managed to really light up the scoreboard.
Senior Drexlan Allen rushed for 158 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries and hauled in a 25-yard pass for a fifth score as Hattiesburg High School claimed a 51-19 decision over Oak Grove High School.
“Hattiesburg being cross-town champion, it means a lot,” said Allen, who has rushed for more than 300 yards and scored nine touchdowns in his last two games. “It was just another game. Oak Grove was the next game on our schedule. But we had to come out and prove a point.”
HHS senior quarterback Jarod Conner threw for a season-best 247 yards and ran for 95 yards and two more scores as the Tigers (4-0) rolled up 514 yards total offense and put up touchdowns on seven of their first 10 possessions in the game.
Hattiesburg’s 11th possession consisted of Conner taking a knee to end the game.
“Just starting out right,” Conner said after the Tigers swept their non-region slate for second, consecutive season.
Oak Grove (3-1), which had averaged 42 points a game over its first three games, finished with 474 yards total offense, but could not put up enough points to keep pace.
“We didn’t play very good on offense, defense or special team (Friday) night,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “We didn’t do anything well.”
The Warriors missed a field goal after driving to the Hattiesburg 12-yard line on the game’s opening possession, surrendered a safety on its second when a mishandled snap led to a blocked punt through the end zone and then turned the ball over on downs after reaching the Tigers’ 35-yard line early in the second quarter.
By then, Hattiesburg led 16-0 after one quarter, scored on its first possession of the second to leadand went into halftime up 23-7.
The Tigers appeared to have returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, but had to settle for the ball at the Warriors’ 43-yard line after being penalized for a blindside block.
It didn’t matter.
The Tigers needed just three plays to make it 30-7, and when Oak Grove struck on a 77-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to junior Liam Breithaupt, Hattiesburg answered with a 65-yard, nine-play drive on the ground to push the lead back to three touchdowns.
The Tigers would score twice on their next three possessions before Plumlee wrapped up the scoring with less than a minute to play.
Plumlee, who came into the game having connected on 77.2 percent of his passes over the first three games, hooked up with Breithaupt on a 39-yard completion on the game’s first play.
He missed on his next nine, though at least three of those incompletions were flat-out drops. Plumlee went into the halftime break having completed 2-of-13 passes for 62 yards.
On the other side of the field, Conner came out firing.
Conner found Darrius Rucker for 48 yards on the Tigers’ first play. He would complete five of his first six passes for 82 yards, setting up Allen’s 8-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
“We just took what they gave us,” said Conner, who had been called upon primarily for his running skills during the bulk of the season’s first three games. “We came out throwing. They gave it to us, so we just kept throwing the football.”
After the safety pushed the lead to 9-0, Conner went 2-of-3 for 24 yards on a 54-yard drive that Allen capped off with a 32-yard sprint off the left edge for a 16-0 lead.
“That was the plan, loosen them up a little bit and let our run game take over,” HHS coach Tony Vance said.
Conner completed four more passes for 24 yards in a mix-and-match 64-yard drive that he finished off with a 1-yard run for a 23-0 lead in the second quarter before junior Nick Milsap got Oak Grove on board with a bruising 8-yard run up the middle to close the gap at halftime.
Milsap battered his way through the Tigers for 108 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
“I was really proud of him,” Causey said. “He did a great job. If we had all 11 guys play as hard as him every snap, we’d have a chance to be a good football team.”
Allen, who caught two passes for 41 yards Friday to finish with 199 total yards, took a flare pass from Conner and got a great block downfield from Ruffin to go into the end zone standing up on a 25-yard play to put Hattiesburg up 30-7.
Plumlee, who completed 11-of-17 passes for 162 yards in the second half, found Breithaupt behind the coverage on Oak Grove’s first offensive snap in the second half, and the 77-yard score brought the Warriors back within 30-13.
But Conner opened a 60-yard scoring drive with a 35-yard completion to senior Raheem Vance, and then polished off the march with a 10-yard touchdown run.
Allen added a 3-yard scoring run in the third quarter and a 30-yard touchdown rush in the fourth.
In his last two games, Allen has rushed for 313 yards and eight touchdowns, going for more than 150 yards against both Moss Point High School and Oak Grove and running for four scores in each contest.
“I promise you, we’ve got the best O-line in the state,” Allen said. “They’re well-coached, and so well-coached, sometimes they make it look easy.”
Plumlee wrapped up the scoring with a 10-yard run.
Ruffin led Hattiesburg with six catches for 110 yards and Vance also had six catches for 65 yards.
For Oak Grove, Plumlee rushed for 96 yards and a score on 13 carries.
Breithaupt wound up with two catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, junior Tavion Smith had three catches for 63 yards and sophomore Jordan Coleman made four catches for 31 yards.
Both teams will be off next week before heading into region play.
Hattiesburg will visit Gautier High School at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 to begin Region 4-5A competition.
“I told someone earlier, “Hey, that’s the preseason,’” Vance said of the four-game, non-region schedule. “We’re 4-0, but right now, it means absolutely nothing. Those aren’t (region) games. So, we’re going to use this bye week to get healthy and go and try to take care of business in (region) play.”
Oak Grove will host George County High School at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 to open Region 6-3A play.
“We’re going to go back to work,” Causey said. “We’ve got to get a lot better.”