It was homecoming Friday night at Oak Grove, and the Panthers’ football team started the celebration well before the band and royalty took the field.
By DAVE McQUEEN
Special to The Star
The only suspense by halftime, after the Panthers threw their own touchdown party, was who would be crowned queen. By then, Oak Grove was already up seven touchdowns and well on its way to a 63-14 victory over Nevada.
Oak Grove, 3-0, looked every bit like the No. 1 team in The Star’s small-class rankings.
And while his team had rolled up some easy victories already, Oak Grove coach Pat Richard said this was the first time his team had really looked formidable.
“We kind of big-played everybody those first two games,” Richard said. “Tonight, we executed, we looked like we should on offense. We challenged them to come out and play early and they answered the call. It was fun to watch.”
The Panthers scored every time they touched the ball in the first half on their way to a 49-0 lead.
Five players shared in the touchdown wealth. Aaron Graham and Tyler Brown scored two TDs apiece, while DuWaun Johnson, Ethan Fugitt, and Austin Blackston also found the end zone. Blackston, the Panthers’ junior quarterback, also threw a TD pass.
Fugitt, who needed only seven carries to gain 120 rushing yards, and Jones added TDs early in the third quarter before Richard mercifully put junior-varsity players in the game. Oak Grove finished with 400 total yards of offense, 334 on the ground.
“This is exactly what we planned to do when we first started the year,” said Graham, who rushed for 114 yards in seven carries. “We have so many different weapons, so many different ways to move the ball.”
Nevada, meanwhile, managed only 38 yards of total offense in the first half and never advanced across midfield until Tigers quarterback Alex Payne tossed an 80-yard TD pass to Keegan Bell late in the third quarter. Skyler Hulse and Tandy Hall had a lot to do with that, harassing Payne in the backfield for most of the opening half.
“We’ve really played some great defense the last two weeks,” Richard said. “We’re getting the concepts, we’re flying to the ball.”
Nevada, 0-3, appeared to have Oak Grove stopped on its last possession of the half, when Fugitt had a 5-yard TD run nullified by a chop block penalty. Fugitt later fumbled on a drive up the middle only to have the ball pop into Hulse’s hands for a 10-yard gain. One play later, Blackston lobbed a 10-yard TD pass to Graham.
Yes, it was that kind of night for both teams. Which made homecoming all the more fun for Oak Grove.
“Homecoming at Oak Grove is such a special time,” Richard said. “It was awesome to see the kids have so much fun on homecoming.”