Photo/Zac Chamblee

John Rhys Plumlee’s first start at quarterback for Oak Grove came during the 2016 season. The Warriors were hosting D’Iberville, and Plumlee, a sophomore at the time, says the game plan going in was simple and centered around what he did best: running. 

“Run the ball, throw some screens, flip it off here and there, and do a lot of running,” he said. 

Still, Plumlee finished the contest—a 50-44 loss for the Warriors—with 365 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Oak Grove went on to miss the playoffs that season and the next. In that span, Plumlee accounted for over 3000 total yards and 22 touchdowns on the way to being recognized as one of the state’s most electric players. 

He earned scholarship offers from all across the country before committing to the University of Georgia for football and baseball. He earned four-star status from 247 Sports. He even earned one of the state’s top honors by being named to the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen. 

Something was missing, though, heading into his final season in a Warrior uniform. For Plumlee, the team’s success far outweighs his as an individual, so helping bring Oak Grove back into the conversation as one of the state’s elite programs was his priority.

Safe to say Plumlee checked that final box in 2018. Thanks to his constant production on the field and his leadership off it, the Warriors enjoyed a return to relevancy, winning 12 games on the way to their first state championship game appearance since 2014. Though Oak Grove came up a win short of their second state title in school history, Plumlee says the season is one he’ll never forget. It’s the closeness of this group and not necessarily the wins or losses that stick out the most. 

No play personified that better than one of E.J. Newell’s runs in the fourth quarter against Petal during the regular season. With Newell almost certainly stopped for just a short gain, the majority of Oak Grove’s players ran to his aid, kept him upright and made the pile keep moving for a longer gain than expected. Plumlee went on to score the game-winner on the drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak. 

“Teams in the past, we’ve been close and been a football team, but really this team this past year is gonna hold a special place in my heart for sure,” he said. 

In 15 starts, Plumlee threw for 2834 yards and 33 touchdowns, and on the ground, he ran for 1444 yards and 19 scores. The individual honors keep piling up. For that, Plumlee is grateful, but he’s far from comfortable taking full credit. 

“I look good on film and stuff, and I make the cool plays and have all the fun out there, but really those guys that are in front of me and those that beside me do a whole lot of work to make it look like I’m doing all the work,” Plumlee said. “I don’t think they get enough credit for it, especially those offensive line guys. They do a really, really good job for me and have done a great job for me this season.

“I’m really blessed, and that’s an understatement.”

As for Oak Grove and its standing in Class 6A moving forward, Plumlee is of the mindset that order has been restored. 

“I think when people see Oak Grove on their schedule next year, they won’t look over us like I think they did these past two years. I think we did put Oak Grove back where it should be.”

Plumlee is our 2018 Sports601 Hattiesburg/Covington Player of the Year.