Photo/Zac Chamblee

Jarius Smith has made up for lost time this postseason for Oak Grove. With the Warriors now a win away from a state title and the senior running the ball like his coaches envisioned leading into the 2018 season, the hamstring injuries that once plagued Smith feel like a tiny bump in the road to “The Rock”. 

Smith has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in all three of Oak Grove’s playoff wins. His latest came on the road last Friday, as the Warriors knocked off top-seeded Brandon, 21-10. Smith finished the contest with 108 yards and a touchdown on the way to earning our Week 15 Sports601 Hattiesburg Player of the Week honors. 

The performance upped Smith’s season total to 412 yards, and 84 percent of that has come in the postseason. 

“He [Smith] has come back in and been able to see holes a little bit better and make some hard-nosed runs for us,” said Oak Grove coach Drew Causey. “He’s done a great job of taking care of the football and been a big part of these last three weeks for us.”

Again, that’s what Causey and company envisioned early, but a nagging hamstring injury stood in the way. Ten weeks later, Smith saw his first action in Oak Grove’s regular season finale against Jim Hill on Nov. 1. 

“Finally, we got to Jim Hill, and he [Smith] said ‘Coach, let’s just play and whatever happens happens’. I think he got some more information about [the injury],” said Causey. “He played a little bit against Jim Hill, and we just wanted to see if he’d be ready to go.”

Smith finished that particular contest with 65 yards on just seven carries, proving he was more than ready to both run and help the Warriors march towards a state championship. For Smith, those high expectations from way back in the preseason are now a reality. 

“He’s a big, physical kid,” said Causey of Smith. “He’s not one that’s gonna break one for 80 or 90 [yards], but he’s one that’s gonna lower his pads and try to run you over. He can make you miss, and he’s just an all-around good back.

“He’s been unbelievable these last three weeks.”

Oak Grove improved to 12-2 with their aforementioned win against Brandon, advancing to their first state championship game appearance since 2014. The Warriors will face unbeaten Horn Lake Friday night at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.