Laurel High School football coach Todd Breland didn’t hesitate when asked his assessment of his Golden Tornadoes’ upcoming foe, Oak Grove High School.
“They are playing better than anybody in the state,” Breland said.
The Class 5A Tornadoes (1-1) will get a close up look at the Class 6A Warriors (2-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Oak Grove Stadium.
The Warriors, indeed, have dominated. Oak Grove has outscored its first two opponents 87-10, while averaging 492.5 yards total offense.
“The thing is, we’re not very complicated,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “We’ve kept things very simple. We kind of do what we do, and we go from there.”
What the Warriors have been is balanced, averaging 255 passing yards a game and 237.5 rushing yards a game
In two games, Oak Grove has scored 12 touchdowns, including seven through the air and five on the ground.
“They are very, very talented,” Breland said. “It’s hard to single out just one person. They have really good players and they believe in what they do. Everybody’s on the same page.”
But Causey said the Warriors are aware of what they’ll be facing when the Tornadoes come to town.
Laurel beat Oak Grove 28-14 last season at Blair Stadium.
“We feel good and we feel confident, but we have to play well,” Causey said. “We know. We know we have to play our best football. We can’t halfway play, can’t make mistakes. We have to execute.”
The Golden Tornadoes are coming off a 20-14 loss to visiting Hattiesburg High School in the 96th edition of the Battle for the Lil’ Brown Jug.
Hattiesburg seemed to have seized control of the game, with Laurel on its own 20-yard line with just 1:43 to play and no timeouts.
But receiver Juan Nelson took a reverse 49 yards to the Tigers’ 31-yard line, and eventually, Laurel had a first-and-10 just outside the Tigers’ 10 with 12 seconds to play. But on second down and the clock at zero, sophomore quarterback Xavier Evans was intercepted at the 3-yard line to end the game.
“I’m proud of them,” Breland said. “We’re going to grow from it, and the biggest thing we figured out was that we’re never out of it.”
The Tornadoes have averaged 271 yards total offense, including 181.5 yards per game on the ground.
Evans has completed 51.7 percent of his passes (15 of 29) through two games for 169 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions. He also has run for 103 yards on 20 carries.
“I definitely thought we threw the ball better the last game,” Breland said.
Junior running back Zias Perryman leads the team in rushing with 126 yards and three touchdowns.
Oak Grove’s defense limited Purvis and Wayne County high schools to just a score apiece, with Purvis scoring a touchdown in a 45-7 Warriors’ victory and the War Eagles’ managing just a field goal in a 42-3 decision.
Junior quarterback Jon Rhys Plumlee, who has missed on just four pass attempts all season (25 of 29), had a hand in all six touchdowns against the War Eagles. Plumlee threw four touchdown passes, three to senior Kevin Barnett, and ran for two others, including a 54-yard weave.
The Warriors outgained Wayne County 459 yards to 45 yards in a game that saw Oak Grove’s starters play just three quarters.
In two games, Plumlee has thrown for 479 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. Barnett has caught 12 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns.
Oak Grove welcomed back senior Orlando Simon against Wayne County, who rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries in his first game of the season.
“It was good to have him back,” Causey said. “He got a little winded, knocking the rust off, but thought he looked good.”
Senior Tyler Taylor leads the Warriors in rushing with 127 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.