PINE BELT (WDAM) - Petal High School had a simple enough game plan coming into Friday's football game with archrival Oak Grove High School: win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers pounded the Warriors for 362 yards rushing on 60 carries and Petal limited Oak Grove to 89 yards on 23 carries on its way to a 49-28 victory at Panther Stadium.
"We focused all week on getting that front push, and when we get that push, it creates a hole, and I just hit it (Friday night)," Petal running back Stephon Huderson said, who slashed and dashed his way for 206 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries. "It takes a lot of work."
Two first-quarter fumbles by Oak Grove, including one on the opening kickoff when the Warriors failed to cover a pooch kick, helped shift the table in Petal's favor, but the Panthers' domination up front proved decisive in the Region 3-6A matchup.
"We told them all week, whoever won on the offensive line and the defensive line was going to win the game, and I thought our kids rose to the occasion," Petal head coach Marcus Boyles said.
Petal (4-2, 2-0), which won consecutive games for the first time this season, finished with 479 yards total offense. In the process, the Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Warriors.
Oak Grove (3-4, 1-1), which saw a two-game winning streak come to an end, managed just 230 yards total offense.
"They completely outplayed us (Friday night)," Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. "We didn't play like we're capable of playing, but that's because of them. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and they won."
Petal got on the board after recovering the opening kickoff at the Oak Grove 27-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-7 at the 24, Petal quarterback Tanner Estill found Natorian Watts in the middle for a 7-0 lead.
Oak Grove immediately tied the game, when quarterback John Rhys Plumlee capped an 80-yard drive with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Barnett.
Petal came right back, with Huderson picking up 42 yards on four carries on a 51-yard, five play drive that ended with his 27-yard burst through the middle of the Oak Grove defense for a 14-7 lead.
After an Oak Grove punt, the Panthers went 77 yards for a 21-7 lead, with Huderson scoring on a violent, 14-yard run around right end, that saw him shredding would-be tacklers along the way.
Petal recovered an Oak Grove fumble seconds before the end of the first quarter, and cashed it in on Huderson's 2-yard run early in the second to go up 28-7.
Plumlee, who had been sidelined for a game-and-half as part of a concussion protocol, got the Warriors within 28-14 at halftime on a weaving, 31-yard touchdown scramble that saw him cover nearly twice that yardage along the way.
But the second half was all Petal.
Huderson capped the opening drive of the third quarter with a 1-yard run for a 35-14 lead before Oak Grove's Orlando Simon took the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to keep the Warriors within striking distance.
But Petal needed just six plays to cover 65 yards, with Xavier Yancey plowing over from 5 yards for a 42-21 lead after three quarters.
After an interception by Charlie Marlowe set up the Panthers at Oak Grove's 30-yard lien, Huderson made the score 49-21 on a 6-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Plumlee capped the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Zae Flex with less than a minute to play.
Yancey finished with 66 yards on 10 carries, while Nataureann Watts finished with nine catches for 72 yards.
"The challenge is to do it again," Boyles said of the Panthers' outing. "We're up at Brandon next week, but we're going to enjoy this one this weekend, I promise you. We're getting better."
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