In cruising to a 49-14 win Wednesday night over visiting O’Hara, Oak Grove set up a meeting with a football program similar to its own.
The Panthers (10-1) will face undefeated Hogan Prep for the Class 3 District 7 title Monday night at Oak Grove High School. Both teams have traditions of going deep into the postseason. Oak Grove was the 1986 and 1990 state Class 3A runner-up. Hogan Prep was the 2006 state Class 2 runner-up.
Moreover, this season, both teams have stingy defenses and high-scoring offenses. The top-seeded Panthers have outscored their opponents 509-137, with two shutouts. The No. 2-seeded Rams (11-0) have outscored their opponents 393-57, including Wednesday’s 30-13 win over Center, with five shutouts.
Both teams prefer to run the ball, too.
“It should be a quick game,” Panthers coach Pat Richard joked.
Oak Grove set up the showdown by fighting off an O’Hara squad that kept it close through the first quarter. Junior running back Aaron Graham scored on a 5-yard TD run and Scott Jones booted the first of his seven extra-point kicks to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 6:33 left in the first quarter. The Celtics tied it on their next possession by launching an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive, capped by Michael Rowe’s 3-yard TD run and Zach Drake’s point after with 3:27 remaining.
“Our kids came out and played hard like we wanted them to, because we knew we were facing a team that can easily take this (postseason) to the state house,” Celtics coach Jim DeMarea said. “We’re just blessed that we played hard and played aggressively.”
Graham’s 49-yard TD run with 1:24 remaining helped Oak Grove take a 14-7 lead into the second quarter.
“We just came explosive,” Graham said. “Our linemen did what they had to do. I just did what I had to do.”
The Panthers broke it open by scoring on three-straight second-quarter possessions. Ethan Fugitt scored on a 22-yard run with 10:38 remaining, and Tyler Brown’s 12- and 7-yard TD runs helped Oak Grove build a 35-7 halftime lead.
Graham credited the Panthers’ explosive second quarter to the offensive line.
“Our linemen did their jobs perfectly and we just took advantage of it,” he said.
Fugitt’s 33-yard TD run and Graham’s 16-yard TD run stretched the Panthers’ lead to 49-7 in the third quarter.
Rowe’s 15-yard TD run and Drake’s point after were the last scoring gasps for the Celtics (6-5).
As the Panthers prepare for Hogan Prep, the Celtics will no doubt start looking toward 2014. Their schedule next season will include a regular-season meeting with Oak Grove.
“(It’ll be a) good testing ground for us,” DeMarea said.