In any given football season, Hattiesburg High School squaring off against Oak Grove High School looms large, from the field to the gate to the grocery store.
“It’s always a good game for both schools,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Friday’s renewal of the cross-town rivalry carries even more cachet this season.
Both will come into D.I. Patrick Stadium at 7 p.m. unbeaten, sporting gaudy offensive numbers and ranked among the top 12 football teams in Mississippi in MaxPreps.com’s Top 25.
“It’s very important to both communities,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “We’re looking forward to representing Hattiesburg and they’re looking forward to representing west Hattiesburg.
“It’s one of those games, another rivalry game and another opportunity.”
Class 6A Oak Grove (3-0), ranked fifth in MaxPreps.com Top 25, has been dominant in season-opening victories over Purvis, Wayne County and Laurel high schools. The Warriors have averaged 43 points and 474 yards total offense a game while surrendering just 7.3 points a game.
“We’ve really controlled the line of scrimmage in our first three games, and I think that’s something that’s going to be very, very important this week more than ever,” Causey said. “If we can control the line of scrimmage, and do what we’re supposed to do, I think we’ll have a good shot.”
Class 5A Hattiesburg (3-0), ranked 12th by MaxPreps.com, came out on top in battles with Petal and Laurel high schools before running away from Moss Point High School last week.
The Tigers have averaged 38.7 points and 396.7 yards total offense a game while allowing 20.3 points a game. Since giving up 37 points in the season opener with Petal, the Tigers have allowed just two touchdowns in each of the last two games.
“Our defense has played really well, all 11 of those guys,” Vance said. “We know what we kind of team is coming here Friday, so we’re going to have play (well) again.”
Both teams have been sparked by the play of their quarterbacks.
Oak Grove junior Jon Rhys Plumlee has completed 37 of 46 passes for 610 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception. He also has led the Warriors with six rushing touchdowns to go with 170 yards on 23 carries.
Hattiesburg junior Jarod Conner has completed 33 of 64 passes for 466 yards and six touchdowns with one interception, and leads the Tigers’ ground game with 234 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries.
He threw for a career-high four touchdowns against Moss Point last week.
“Our passing game has gotten better each week, and (Conner)’s gotten better each week,” Vance said. “We need that from him, and we’ve been very pleased with him.”
The game also will feature two of the Pine Belt’s top running backs.
Oak Grove senior Orlando Simon has rushed for 274 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries after missing the first game of the season. Hattiesburg senior Fabian Franklin has ran for 130 yards and three scores on 31 carries.