By: Mary Ryan Karnes
Through nail-biting wins, surprising plays, and intense rivalries, playoff games have been the highlight of the 2010 season. When asked what the team’s greatest achievements were, head coach Nevil Barr replied, “Two things: Getting to the playoffs for the tenth straight year and winning the opening round for the ninth straight year against Petal.” And indeed, these achievements are substantial. Past the regular season, the Warriors have shown their true colors and played to win despite quite a few injured players. “I’m proud of the kids who stepped up, and felt for the ones who had season-ending injuries because they worked so hard in the off season,” Barr said.
The first round of the playoffs was against Petal. During the regular season, the Panthers defeated the Warriors 26-21. But less than three months later, Oak Grove left “the Friendly City” with a 35-34 playoff victory. With a serious rival left in the dust, the next item on the agenda was a playoff game against Brandon. Earlier in the season, Brandon beat Oak Grove 49-35, but the Warriors trumped the Bulldogs 37-12 in the second playoff game. For Coach Barr, “beating Petal and Brandon when it really counted” were the games of which he was most proud. These wins were what advanced Oak Grove to the third round of the MHSAA 6A playoffs. A 0-34 loss to Meridian ended the reign of Black and Gold, but the Warriors have had a successful progressive season.
For every Oak Grove supporter, the first round of the playoffs was exciting. “There’s no doubt,” Athletic Director Tim Heldt said. “The first playoff game against Petal (was successful). Advancing is always good.” The fact that this rivalry game was a redemptive win on Panther territory makes the first win past the regular season even sweeter. Quarterback Steven Swindle said that the game that he was most proud of was also the Petal playoff. And fans that crowded the stands of an over-sized field in Petal felt the same way.
This season’s playoff victories not only advanced the team to the third round of the playoffs, but they also increased school spirit. On the day before the Petal game, streamers and posters supporting the Warriors were displayed all over the school. A colorful sign on the back wall of the school (near the gym) read “Hang the Panties Out to Dry.” And as vulgar as this may seem, the football team did exactly that. The next week, more decorations could be seen in preparation for the Brandon game. “As the season progressed, the fans got better,” Swindle said. As the student section was filled with tomahawks and booming voices, the battle cry of the Warriors could be heard from miles around.
On November 26, the football season ended with a cold loss to Meridian. Even though the game was during Thanksgiving break, fans still showed up with blankets and hot chocolate in tow to cheer on the Warriors. And now that the season is over, coaches and players are looking to next year. “Fortunately, we’re not losing that many players,” Heldt said. “But the ones we are losing will be very hard to replace.” Next season, the potential for the football team is great. Heldt, who will retire at the end of this year, expressed his happiness with the 2010 season. “(This season was) very memorable. They are all memorable.” For Heldt, the rest of the team, and every fan, Black and Gold never looked so good. “Well I tell you what, it’s just been a great experience all the way around. It just feels good working at such a great school,” Heldt said.