HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One team appears to have found its stride, winning its last three games, while the other has searched not only consistency but an identity while dropping three of its first four games in an injury-plagued, early season.
But Hattiesburg High School Tony Vance said he knows what his Tigers (3-1) will be in for Friday night when they travel just over the city limits to take on Oak Grove (1-3) at 7 p.m. at Warrior Stadium.
"It's what high school football is all about, that cross-town rivalry," Vance said. "I can tell you, it's something we haven't had to talk about, them being 1-3 and us being 3-1. Our kids know what they're capable of. They're very focused."
Vance said tape from the Warriors' 51-44 loss to D'Iberville High School was definitely eye-catching.
Trailing big in the second half, quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and running back Dwayne Lee sparked a furious rally that nearly brought Oak Grove all the way back.
"I've seen them improve drastically over the last week-and-half, two weeks," Vance said. "Watching them on film, from week three to week four, you can see the improvement, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
In his first start of the season at quarterback, Plumlee completed 22 of 38 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Lee rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on five carries, while hauling in eight passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
"The young man at quarterback (Plumlee) really gets them going, and offensively, they're starting to find themselves, starting to get some guys back healthy," Plumlee said.
Exactly, said Oak Grove coach Drew Causey.
"It was kind of the first game all season where we really got clicking and got rolling," Causey said. "It gave us a lot of confidence, especially going forward."
Causey said Plumlee had worked this summer at quarterback, before switching full-time to defense. But with the Oak Grove offense spinning its wheels through its first three games, Plumlee got a long look on offense during the week leading up to the game with D'Iberville.
"He's a very good athlete," Causey said, "and he brings kind of swagger to it that the guys kind of respond to. There's a lot we can do with him."
Oak Grove also got back Lee, who had sat out the first half against D'Iberville.
"He'd gotten hurt against Laurel, and we weren't expecting him to play," Causey said. "He came up and said he wanted to give it a try, and I made him go see our trainer, who said he was all set to go."
Oak Grove also saw the return of standout receiver Charles Hartfield (seven catches, 106 yards), who had missed three games after injuring a knee in the season opener, and Causey said freshman defensive end Jack Harris was cleared for practice this week.
"This will be the first game of the season where we're going to be, basically, 100 percent healthy," Causey said.
But the Warriors will have to find a way to slow down a Tigers' offense that has outscored its opponents 125-34 over the three-game winning streak.
Hattiesburg welcomed back running back Fabian Franklin (concussion) and receiver D'Andre Humbles (knee) last week in a 51-6 win over East Marion High School.
Franklin rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns, while senior quarterback Julian Conner threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns despite playing less than three quarters against the Eagles.
"They're very explosive on both sides of the ball," Causey said. "Offensively, they've got a ton of talent."
Vance said in spite of the difference in records, he expected nothing but the Warriors' best shot Friday night.