Oak Grove at Picayune 11/05/04
Oh you Oak Grove you !!! You are coming to town to play the Tide and it is once again another
big game. No, this time the Tide and Warriors aren't playing for a Division title or a South State
title like last year, but it is a biggest game of the year because the winner advances to the “official”
first round of the playoffs next week. In earnest, this is Round One of the playoffs. I encourage
everyone, I mean everyone to be there.
Both teams lost a lot of talented players from last year, but yet each team still has a chance to get
back in the hunt for a coveted State Championship. The winner advances to play on the road next
week on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to take on the likes of either Gulfport or Ocean Springs.
If Hattiesburg beats Hancock (and I think they will), then Picayune will be a #3 seed with a win due
to head to head victory over Hattiesburg and Oak Grove would be a #4 seed with a win due to head
to head loss to the same Tigers.
This game will be a contrast of styles: Oak Grove's 4-wide receiver, 5-wide receiver, all out pass
just about every snap against the Tide's ground game. Oak Grove makes no bones about it: they
want to pass it. Picayune wants to run it. Something's gotta give.
Both teams lost a lot of talented players from last year, but both return enough talent to have gotten
back to this point a year later. The outcome may well be decided by who has the ball last.
I think it will be a high scoring game and the way I see it is.... Picayune 37 Oak Grove 35
The Tide gave a very good effort, yet lost to NW Rankin last week. However, we should have beat ‘em.
I think we are just as talented as they are; they made some big plays and got a few breaks and that
was the difference. Give the Cougars credit for spreading the ball around all night. They have a good
sound scheme. Good luck to ‘em against the University of Meridian this Friday. Also, I want to send
out a special thanks to my friend Jeff Little (NW Rankin radio) for the hospitality up there.
Since this might be the last weekly article for 2004, I will admit that it is a little different having one
out there, but I think I have handled better than most thought I would. I know he has handled himself
like a champion and made the most of his opportunities. I haven't mentioned it all year, but I am so
thankful for some of those kids he has played with over the years. I have been watching them since
PYAA days and I have shed a tear or two watching them grow up and now playing on Fridays, well,
it puts it in a different perspective. I think they know how much I love ‘em and want the best for them
in their daily walk with the Lord first and foremost, academics second, and sports is important, but
down the list. I always tell them this: Be a great citizen first, then be a good student, and the athletics
will come easy when your God given talent takes over. I was told that one time by Larry Ladner at a
basketball camp when I was a youngster and it has never left me. Our legacy is not what we leave for
others, but what we pass on to the generations that follow us.
Now to the game…
After a 5-4 overall, 3-3 Division 3-5A record, we play Oak Grove (6-3, 3-3) to determine who gets
the final playoff berth from Division 3-5A. I kind of thought this game would be for something like
this when the season started and it has now become just that after all.
Oak Grove's Nevil Barr is one of the most innovative offensive coaches around. I remember reading an
article in the Clarion Ledger last year when he stated that his decision to install their wide-open offense
was due to the notion that when he took over their program, he and Tim Heldt (close friend, and Athletic
Director) figured there had to be good skilled personnel to throw and catch the ball (good hands, good
feet) due to the success the school has had in baseball the past four decades. He was apparently right on
his assumption. He went on to say that a lot of their success is because of the attitude and ability that
came from the baseball players. Barr appears to be one of those coaches that George Blair talked about
in his article in the Laurel Leader Call that Robbie Hamilton referenced in his Chasin' Foul Balls article.
Barr and Tim Heldt (ironically the Athletic Director who works with offensive scheme with Barr)
have molded a fun to watch offense that can cause numerous problems for opposing defenses by
making you cover the whole width, and sometimes length, of the field on just about every play.
I will say I really enjoy watching their offense except for when we have to defend it, then I view it
like Presidential debates, root canals, and bad haircuts. They all make me cringe.
Coach Barr is a class guy on and off the field. I have family and friends up there who talk about
his demeanor and involvement in the community. Model citizen. Model coach. My bet is that he'll
have Oak Grove in the hunt for as long as he coaches and that he will finish his high school coaching
career with the Warriors if the community has any say in it. I've been told that the players who play
for Barr believe that their chances of winning are increased regardless of the talent level because of
their offensive approach. They have a lot of confidence in what they do and it shows.
Quarterback Zack Harrington (6-0, 185, Sr.) has patiently waited his turn, taking over from Kyle Sellers
(now at PRCC as a backup), and has proven that he is one of the best pure passers in South Mississippi.
Harrington will test the Tide defense from the opening snap. His receivers are crafty and smart. We can't
allow him to stand in the pocket and pick us apart; he will have to get to him early and often.
Both teams possess good kickers in Picayune's Scott Hillery and Oak Grove's Taylor Lovitt and I
would call it a draw in that category. Lovitt has a slight advantage in that he is able to come out rested,
while Hillery, a vital part of the Tide's offense shuffling in plays and playing wide receiver, must be
ready to kick after each play. I commend Scott for the way he has handled himself over the years.
He's a tough little cookie and can play rock em sock em when called on to pull some duty on defense.
I'll never forget him getting after Pack in the South State game last year. He and Detillier were not
intimidated at all.
Overall, I think Picayune has as much and maybe more talent than the Grovers. Our receivers (Hillery,
Detillier, McDougle, Hughes, Griffith) are as good as theirs and would flourish in the Warrior offense,
but the Tide makes no bones about it: they will run the football as much as Oak Grove throws it. The
Tide will once again turn to tailback Cody Bales (5-7, 175, Sr.) as they have the past few weeks and
try to find some seams in the Warrior defense, which will be more than likely stacked 8 to 9 at a time
on the line of scrimmage if the past few weeks have been any indication of what to expect. The Warriors
defense may not have Superman (make that Pack-Man) Garry Pack standing in at linebacker, but they
have a formidable bunch led by Hendrick Leverette (6-0, 200, Sr.) to try and counter the Tide's running
attack. If the Grovers succeed and force the Tide into passing situations, then the Tide will rely on Alex
Riser (5-10, 185, Jr.) to find someone open on a pass route. Coach Dodd Lee and the Tide would rather
ground it out, get the lead, milk the clock, and keep Harrington on the sideline and have a fresh, rested
Tide defense. It should all be very interesting to say the least to see what gives in this game. In the end,
probably the defense with the most left in their tank in the second half, will prevail. But, you never know.
This game appears (on paper at least) to be a high scoring affair and will probably take about 3 plus
hours to play if Oak Grove has their wish and throws it 40 times. Bring some extra money for
concessions; you'll probably be at Picayune Stadium for a long time.
I am not sure who'll win this one mainly because I haven't even been close the past few weeks. And this
game is somewhat like the election before we punched our ballots (a W from me): it is too close to call.
For the first time since starting the web site in 2003 and writing these weekly articles, I had decided not
predict a score. But, after briefly pondering the thought, I realized Mr. Harper and Mr. (Rob) Sigler would
have probably called me a wimp. Come to think of it, wimp is easier to swallow than some of the names
others have directed toward others in emails I have received from anonymous "fans" over the past few
weeks. So, instead of a wimpy no prediction, I will say...... Maroon Hats 21 Grovers 16
P.S. I sincerely hope it is the Guys in Maroon Hats who come on top because I feel that some of our
seniors deserve a chance to play at least one more week…..
I hope you find it in you to come out and support them. If not, tune in; we'll do our best to describe it...
May God Bless and Keep You. God Bless America . God Bless our Troops and their families.