HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) – John Rhys Plumlee was in no mood for reflection at the end of the Class 6A state championship football game at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Simply put, Plumlee was devastated following Oak Grove High School’s 31-27 loss to Horn Lake High School in his final football game with his Warrior teammates and friends.
Plumlee had completed 18-of-34 passes against one the state’s best high school defenses for 348 yards and four touchdowns, but his interception deep downfield at the Horn Lake xx-yard line sealed the game with 1:14 left to play.
“We just came up short,” said a red-eyed Plumlee.
But truth be told, without the athletically-gifted, ultra-gritty and uber-competitive Plumlee, the Warriors not only are not in that final game with Horn Lake, but, literally, are not in that final game, period.
For his ability to not only make plays but make others better around him, Plumlee was selected WDAM-TV’s 2018 High School Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Plumlee completed 187-of-291 passes (64.3 percent) for 2,834 yards with 33 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
He also rushed for 1,444 yards on 162 carries, averaging 8.9 yards rushing per carry. He ran for 19 touchdowns.
All told, Plumlee accounted for 4,278 total yards and had a hand in 52 of the Warriors’ 71 touchdowns.
“He is the best player I’ve ever been around,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “If you said you’d trade me any other player for him, I don’t care who it is, I’d take him every time.
“He is the best, and I love him.”
A few weeks following the tough championship loss, Plumlee had reverted to his routinely humble nature, giving credit to those around him for any successes attributed to him.
“The one team goal that we had was to win a state championship, and we just came up one short,” Plumlee said. “That was the end goal, but there’s nothing you can change now.
“But this team has been really, really fun. The most fun to have played on, actually. It’s a really special team, and we had a really special year, but just came up that one short.”
The Warriors finished 12-3, won the fifth South State football championship in school history after making the Class 6A playoffs for the first time in three years.
“This group, we’ve come up winning, and been in a winning atmosphere,” Plumlee said. “We’re really a competitive group, whether it be in practice or in a game, but especially in a game. The competitors that we have on this team and this senior class, I think really pushed this team to be better as a whole.
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve kind of done as a team. There were personal goals, like to get better as a passer, but the team goals, we kind of came each week and had a new goal to really get to where we wanted to be.”
And had a good time doing it for the most part.
Plumlee seems tight with his teammates, with many passing by prior to an interview just to give him some good-natured grief.
“I grew up with these guys,” Plumlee said. “They’re going to give me crap and I’m going to give them crap. We’re just having a good time with everything we’re doing.”
Those good times together soon will be coming to an end. Plumlee said he intends to sign with the University of Georgia, where he plans to play football and baseball.
He’ll play baseball this spring for the Warriors, do the cap-and-gown thing with his graduating class, and then, eventually, start down a new path in the summer.
“I don’t really know what the future holds right now,” Plumlee said. “Going into it, it’s in God’s hands now and according to his plan, so whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be. I’m not really worried about it.
“But I think the future is fairly bright. I have a pretty special case. I feel pretty blessed that I get to go to college and play not only sport but maybe two. So, we’ll see.”