Photo/Zac Chamblee

Drew Causey hasn’t had a whole lot of time to reflect on Oak Grove’s success during their pursuit of a state championship this year. There was a moment, though, on the bus ride back from Brandon last Friday following the Warriors’ 21-10 win over the Bulldogs in South State. With his son and nephew alongside him, the fourth-year coach thought back to where the journey started and the subsequent pain from often coming up short. 

“I text my wife and told her I felt like a softy just because I was getting a little emotional about it,” Causey said. “It’s just amazing what God does. You look back at all the hard times we had in 2016 and 2017, and just to see how these guys have grown and how I’ve grown and how our coaches have grown is a neat feeling.”

But as soon as the near two-hour drive concluded at Oak Grove’s Nevil Barr Fieldhouse and Causey stepped foot off the bus, it was business as usual. Win or lose Friday against unbeaten Horn Lake, the Warriors’ season will conclude at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium in the Class 6A State Championship game. 

Off all the teams playing for state championships this weekend, Horn Lake will travel the farthest (282 miles) to get to Hattiesburg, while Oak Grove is obviously just a hop, skip and a jump away (6 miles). Causey says the team talked in the spring and summer about the possibility of playing for a state title in their own backyard, but once the season arrived, it was rarely brought up. 

“We were just trying to be the best team we could be that week,” he said. 

As their 12-2 record suggests, that’s been the case most weeks for Oak Grove. The Warriors suffered their first loss three weeks in against Hattiesburg and answered with four straight wins. After coming up short against Brandon in the regular season, Oak Grove exacted their revenge last week on the way to extending their win streak to five games. 

“I’ve said it all year, they’ve done a great job of just taking every challenge that we put in front of them, whether it be sprints or whatever that challenge each week may be,” Causey said. “Whenever we’ve been down or lose a game earlier in the season, they respond and bounce back from it. When we lose a game about three weeks before the playoffs start, we’ve bounced back from it.”

After their win over Brandon, Causey stood at midfield with his team gathered around him. With tears rolling down his face, he said “I want you all to know how special y’all are, I don’t have the words right now to tell you how special you are to me”. 

Four days later, Causey still doesn’t have those words. 

“I think that’s something where after this year is over with, I’d like to sit down and think about it and be able to jot or write some things down,” Causey said. “That’s kinda what I’d like to do, and I could answer that question pretty good then.”

The main chapter will be written Friday, as the Warriors attempt to capture their second state football championship (2013) in school history. They’ll face a Horn Lake team that’s yet to lose a game this season. The Eagles (14-0) have outscored opponents 543-141 en route to their first state championship game appearance. 

“We’re definitely gonna have our work cut out for us,” said Causey. “They [Horn Lake] haven’t allowed a lot of people to score a lot of points on them this year. I think they’re giving up like 10 points a game, so we’re gonna have to play our best football.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm Friday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium.