Photo/Zac Chamblee

Drew Causey remembers Oak Grove’s last playoff matchup with Brandon like it occurred yesterday. 

“We played them [Brandon] in South State, we won 36-35.”

In reality, it was four years ago, but Causey hopes history repeats itself Friday night. Just like in 2014, the Warriors will hit the road for Jackson, one win away from playing for a state championship. 

Causey and his players say they’re treating the week of preparation like any other. It is a little different, though, with school being out for Thanksgiving break. But most coaches, including Causey, agree that being able to still practice this week is a blessing. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Causey said. “I know this sounds crazy, but [it’s good] to not have to worry about making plans. We know what our plans are, we’re gonna play a game on Friday.”

It will be a matchup of two familiar, Region 3-6A foes. Brandon (13-1) won the regular season meeting, 31-21, back in October. Going back to 2015, the Bulldogs have won four straight in the rivalry, with their last loss coming in that aforementioned 2014 contest. 

Holding a double-digit second half lead, the Warriors (11-2) were in prime position to snap the streak earlier this season, but costly mistakes proved insurmountable, according to senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. 

“In the regular season, we didn’t capitalize on some stuff that we needed to,” Plumlee said. “We had a lot of opportunities missed in that game. I’m really excited to be able to play them again and get a second chance at it.”

Plumlee’s Warriors will be closer to full strength in the rematch. Defensive players Jack Harris, Jeric Franklin and Jaylen Knight were injured and unable to play in the first meeting, but they’ll be a full-go on Friday. The same goes for running back Jarious Smith and wide receiver Kevin Barnett. 

“I really think we’re completely different than the last time we played those guys,” Causey said, adding that his team is getting closer to what they imagined in the spring and summer. 

Barnett, for instance, didn’t play in the regular season with an injury he sustained in the spring. Two games into the postseason, he’s hauled in 12 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns. 

“He [Barnett] probably started practicing with us when we were getting ready to play Brandon the first time,” Causey said. “We just had it in our mind we were not gonna play him until the first round of the playoffs. We gave him three weeks to get ready. 

“He’s a special football player.”

As their record suggests, the Bulldogs have some talented football players, too. They’ve got a 1000-yard rusher (Dallas Smith) and receiver (Jonathan Mingo) as well as a quarterback in Will Rogers who has passed for 2718 yards and 23 touchdowns this year. Defensively, Brandon is holding opponents to 15 points per game. 

Causey says his Warriors are excited for the challenge that’s ahead of them. 

“Our guys are ready to go, and they’re excited about playing this one,” Causey said. “They were really excited last week, that was a big game. They were excited in the locker room afterwards knowing we get to play another week. We’re one game away from being in the state championship.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm Friday night in Brandon.