Different Look, Same Expectations for Oak Grove in 2016

Oak Grove is a perennial powerhouse in Class 6A, but the Warriors have a lot of obstacles to overcome heading into 2016.

Heading into 2016 the Warriors have the same expectations as they always do.

“And what can we expect out of the Warriors in 2016?”

“Good intensity, good fight.”

“That’s the goal every year. Is to just make it to state, and win it.”

But last year they didn’t make it to Oxford, not even to South State.

So that could be one reason to overlook the Warriors.

“It’s going to show what we’re made of, I guess,” says junior middle linebacker Hayes Maples. “Like, we’re being doubted a lot, but we don’t really take that to mind. We’re just going to play our game, and that’s how we’re going to deal with it.”

For the most part Oak Grove got over that second round playoff loss to Meridian a long time ago.

Now, it’s onto the second year of the Drew Causey era.

“I feel a little bit better about it. I’ve got a year under my belt, got a lot of things I’ve learned this past season, just things I might do differently, some things we wanted to change the way we did things last year so it was definitely a learning experience and we’re excited for this year.”

This year is one that already brings a lot of change to the table as is.

And that change, could be another reason to sleep on Oak Grove.

“Now why would people doubt you? You guys are in the playoffs year in and year out.”

“Exactly.”

“It seems like the Warriors are always kind of the team to beat.”

“I guess that’s just because we lost a lot of people last year,” says Maples.

Albeit more depth on defense, the Warriors return only two starters on that side of the ball, and just one on the offensive line.

Not to mention, there’s a three-way battle going on at quarterback.

“We don’t really have a specific starting quarterback yet,” says Maples.

“We’re still going through a competition there,” says Causey. “A lot like last year, we’re probably going to go into the season and whichever guy is going at that time is who we’re going to go with.”

Max Crawford, Tanner Slay or Payton Harris – one of those three is going to have a ton of weapons at his disposal.

Jordan Duncan is now enrolled at Cal-Berkeley, but Charles Hartfield headlines an incredibly talented foursome on the outside.

And then there’s the thunder and lightning running back combination featuring Braxton Betts, and former WHLT Player of the Week Aaron Abram.

“I feel like offense is pretty intense, man,” says Abram, a senior. “We’ve got four good receivers, and me and Braxton Betts coming out of the backfield. It’s going to be a big deal, man.”

So there it is – a young team with more depth, and even more to prove.

Still embracing the same motto, as well as the role of dark horse.

“One team, one family, one mission…that’s all we got,” says Abram.

“Our big focus last year was being a family and being a brotherhood, and that’s all football is,” says Causey. “These guys are your brothers, you’re with them more than you are most of your family. So it’s one of those things where we want to take care of each other and always have each others back, and that’s kind of helped us become closer as a team. So that’s what we’ll stick with.”

“I know we’re young and we’re the underdogs, but we’re going to have a lot of heart this year,” says Abram.

The Warriors finished with a mark of 10-3 last season.

The open at home with Warren Central on Aug. 19.

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