Perhaps nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal, especially if it happens to be an archrival Panthers.
Oak Grove High School will be especially wary when the Warriors visit their cross-county nemesis, Petal High School, at 7 p.m. Friday in a key Region 3-6A showdown at Panther Stadium.
“Their record is very misleading,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “They’ve got a really good football team. They’ve just had some bad breaks in some of their games. I really expect them to be a very tough opponent.”
Like last year, Petal (1-4, 0-1) enters the game after a disappointing start to the season after opening against a schedule that featured non-region road games at Hattiesburg and Gulfport high schools and home contests with Laurel and New Orleans Brother Martin.
Petal began region play last week by dropping a 28-10 decision at defending Class 6A state champion Pearl High School. The Panthers did not score a touchdown on offense against the Pirates
But Petal coach Marcus Boyles said the Panthers have taken steps forward since the beginning of the season.
“I think we are improving,” Boyles said. “We’ve played some good games that obviously didn’t show up on the scoreboard the way we wanted them to, but then, at other times, we haven’t played well enough to win.
“It has been a very tough schedule, a very tough season, but our kids have had really good attitudes. They come to practice, they work hard and they try to get better.”
Oak Grove (4-1, 1-0) opened region play with a 39-7 victory over George County High School that saw senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee account for five touchdowns.
“We did exactly what we were supposed to do,” Causey said.
Plumlee has thrown for more than 1,000 yards this season with 13 touchdowns against one interception. He also has rushed for 374 yards and six touchdowns.
“It starts with Plumlee, there’s no doubt,” Boyles said. “He is a dynamic player.
“But they also have some guys around him who are really, really good football players. Obviously, you have to focus your attention on him, but you better not lose sight of those other guys.”
Plumlee, who was returning from an injury when the two teams met last season, accounted for five touchdowns against the Panthers, including a 95-yard touchdown run that lifted the Warriors into a fourth-quarter lead.
But the Panthers scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:23 to play and then held off a Warriors’ drive inside Petal’s 10-yard line to preserve a 41-37 victory.
“It was a game last year that gave us a lot of confidence after winning, but this is a totally different team,” Boyles said. “Our backs are against the wall, and all we can do is embrace that, and play like our backs are against the wall.
“That’s just a fact of life because that’s just the way it is for us.”
For Causey and the Warriors, Friday night is a big game, the next game on the schedule that just happens to be against their biggest rival.
“It’s probably a little bit of both,” Causey said. “A lot of our kids know each other really well. They’ve grown up playing against each other in baseball or peewee football or whatever, so they know each other pretty well. It’s always a fun game.”