Based off their records, Oak Grove and Petal will renew their football rivalry as polar opposites Friday night. Through five games, the Warriors are 4-1, and the Panthers are 1-4.
Records can be deceiving, though, according to Oak Grove coach Drew Causey. “Their record is what it is, but they’re a good football team. They’ve got a lot of athletes running around on both sides of the ball.”
Causey proceeded to name off those athletes, including defensive lineman RJ Proctor, wide receiver Trent Williams, running backs Micah McGowan and Rashad Handford, and quarterback DeCarlos Nicholson.
“They’re definitely really talented.”
There’s no denying, though, that it’s been an up-and-down season thus far for Petal. The Panthers started the year 0-3 and picked up their first win with a shutout of Laurel back in week four. This past week, they fell to 1-4 with a road loss to the defending Class 6A State Champions, the Pearl Pirates.
Petal coach Marcus Boyles believes his team, at times, has played better than their record suggests, and other times they simply have not.
“We are 1-4. No need to hide from that, because that’s realistic,” said Boyles. “We’ve got to just learn from the first five ballgames.”
It’s a process, but Boyles believes it is going well.
“We’ve had a great attitude, and that’s the good thing about our kids,” added Boyles. “They come to work every day. Their attitude has been really good, and there’s been no quit in our kids, and I don’t anticipate that happening.”
They will attempt to bounce back this week against the Warriors, who are searching for their first win in the rivalry since 2015. Still, much like last year, the Panthers will enter Friday’s matchup as underdogs. Boyles says it’s a role the team has come to embrace.
“I think the only people that think we’re gonna have a chance to win this football game is those 75 guys down there in the weight room right now.”
Led by superstar quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and running back Nick Milsap, Oak Grove is averaging 37 points a game, and their only loss came two weeks ago to still undefeated Hattiesburg. The Warriors bounced back from the loss with a 39-7 win over region foe George County last week.
“We played really hard, and I couldn’t ask for more effort out of them,” said Causey. “That’s something we gotta carry over into this following week [against Petal].”
Prior to 2015, Oak Grove dominated this rivalry, winning four straight including twice in 2013. That was actually Causey’s first year on staff at Oak Grove. Believe it or not, he played for Petal back in his high school days.
“For the first few years, people would call and text my parents wanting to know what side they would sit on and stuff like that,” recalled Causey. “I grew up over there, and it’s a great community. There’s similarities. You got two really good communities that care about athletics, and it makes for a really fun game.
“There’s a lot of great rivalries. Us and Hattiesburg has become a really good rivalry. But this one goes back….I don’t know how long, and I grew up playing in it. I grew up hearing stories from my dad who played in it, and I watched my older brother play in it, as well. It goes back a long time.”
It’s big in pretty much every other sport, too. But at the end of the day, there’s always mutual respect, according to Boyles.
“I went to the volleyball game at Oak Grove, and after the game, our kids were talking to their kids, and you see the respect.”
The latest chapter of the football rivalry will be Friday night at Panther Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.