As it turned out Friday night at D.I Patrick Stadium, the Oak Grove High School Warriors wound up having with a pair of quarterback issues.
Oak Grove was without its starting quarterback, junior sparkplug Jon Rhys Plumlee, who was injured the previous week.
And Hattiesburg High School had junior quarterback Jarod Conner on its side of the field.
Conner rushed for 134 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries and threw for 199 yards as the unbeaten Tigers handed the Warriors their first loss of the season with a 42-28 victory.
“It’s a good, good feeling,” said Conner, who had scoring runs of 3 yards, 6 yards, 8 yards and 31 yards as well as a two-point conversion run. “We played a good game. We hadn’t beaten them in like four years, so we finally got it done.”
Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance acknowledged that the absence of Plumlee, who had accounted for 13 of the Warriors’ 18 touchdowns in their first three games, deprived the Warriors of an offensive weapon.
“That’s a really good football team and they’re going to win a lot of football games,” Vance said. “They were down one of their studs (Friday) night, they were.
“But we’re happy to get the win, and we’ll take it any way we can get it. To get that first win against the team that’s been a thorn in our side, that’s one of those humps that we have to get over, and we feel like we got one (Friday) night.”
The Class 5A Tigers (4-0) opened up a 20-0 lead in the second quarter and appeared on the brink of running away from the Class 6A Warriors (3-1).
Conner (6 yards), junior Drexlan Allen (23 yards) and senior Fabian Franklin (22 yards) each contributed a rushing touchdown for Hattiesburg to build the early lead.
But an 80-yard run by sophomore Brandon Hayes on a receiver reverse seemed to reverse Oak Grove’s fortunes and got the Warriors back with 20-8 at halftime.
The Tigers came roaring out the locker room to start the second half, going 65 yards on six plays _ including a 56-yard completion from Conner to Darius Ruffin _ to seize a 28-6 lead.
Oak Grove scored on a 2-yard run by junior Jack Harris and a 59-yard run by senior Orlando Simon to cut the lead back to 28-20 at the end of the third quarter.
“We started blocking,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “Bottom line, we started blocking. We weren’t finishing blocks in the first half like we had the first three weeks, but that second half, we started doing what we were supposed to do.
“We just came up short (Friday) night.”
But Conner connected with Ruffin for 36 yards and then scored a play later on an 8-yard run to cap a 55-yard drive, and following an interception by senior Dexter Jordan, the Tigers made it 42-20 on Conner’s 31-yard run.
“He’s been that way all year, and he’s getting better, more confident,” Vance said of Conner. “He’s a great kid, great to be around, and good things happen to good people.”
Oak Grove responded when Plumlee’s replacement, sophomore Landon Forbes, hooked up with senior Kevin Barnett on 63-yard scoring play with 2:19 to play.
Causey said Forbes, who completed 6 of 10 passes in the second half for 118 yards and a touchdown with an interception, did fine in his first career start.
“He did pretty well,” Causey said. “There’s some balls I know that he’d like to have back and I’d like to have back. But for a sophomore coming into a tough ballgame with a big crowd, I’m proud of him.”
The Warriors recovered an on-sides kick with just a little more than two minutes to play, but the Tigers held on downs, and three Conner runs ran out the clock.
Franklin rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for Hattiesburg and Allen added another 36 yards and a score on seven carries, Ruffin hauled in six catches for 137 yards.
Simon finished with 130 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Barnett had four catches for 74 yards and a score. Harris added a pair of two-point conversion runs for the Warriors.
Both Hattiesburg and Oak Grove are off next Friday and will head into region play when they return from the open week.
“Four-and-oh, that’s where we wanted to be, that’s where we hoped to be and these guys worked hard to put us to this point,” Vance said. “But now, the preseason’s over. It meant absolutely nothing. Now, we start the regular season (in Region 4-5A). These are the ones that matter. These are the ones that count.”
Causey declined to say whether Plumlee would be back when the Warriors opened Region 4-Class 6A play in two weeks.
“We’re not going to talk about injuries,” Causey said. “We’re lucky to have (the off date) this week. We’ve just got to get healthy and get back to work.”