Mangham came out on the short end of a 35-12 verdict against Oak Grove on Friday night in the Bayou Jamb at ULM, but all was not lost.
Though it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard, first-year head coach Scott Wilcher saw some promising signs from the Dragons.
“We have 23 juniors, and out of seven seniors, five of those play,” Wilcher said. “We are going to be okay.”
Oak Grove took charge early, scoring on its first two possessions. Dalton Allen’s two-yard run and Otis Moore’s eight-yard scamper sent the Tigers to a 14-0 lead with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
Mangham closed the gap to 14-6 with an efficient 13-play, 55-yard drive. Converting a fourth-and-14, Caleb Pleasant’s 16-yard pass to Shun Williams gave the Dragons a fresh set of downs at the 16. Pleasant later ran for 15 yards and another first down at the one before hitting Tae Gayden with a six-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal.
Gayden’s catch opened a frantic scoring spree, which featured three touchdowns during a 58-second span.
Moore’s 53-yard run through the heart of the defense extended The Grove’s lead to 21-6 with 39 seconds left in the half.
Taking over at the 35 after the kickoff rolled out of bounds, Mangham advanced to the 30 on Pleasant’s 35-yard pass to Williams. An incomplete pass and Kaleb Proctor’s 11-yard sack brought up third-and-21 from the 41. Under duress, Pleasant delivered a 41-yard TD aerial to J.T. Smith on the final play of the first half to bring Mangham within 21-12.
Mangham’s passing game will only improve as Pleasant becomes more familiar with the offense.
“We have to learn to take what the defense gives us,” Wilcher said. “We have to learn to take the short routes instead of going deep every play.”
Oak Grove controlled the second half with Allen dashing 82 yards on a fullback dive and Moore darting 33 yards to close out the scoring.
“We gave up too many big plays on defense,” Wilcher said.
Then again, it’s not like Mangham is going to be the only defense the Tigers light up.
“We played a very good team in Oak Grove,” Wilcher said. “There’s a reason they are going to win 1A.”
Wilcher would like to see more consistency from an offense, which put together consecutive scoring drives in the first half before being held scoreless in the final 12 minutes.
“Offensively, when we’re in rhythm, we’re pretty good. When we’re not in rhythm, we’re not very good,” Wilcher said.
Albeit far from perfect, Wilcher was encouraged by Friday’s outing.
“I saw a lot of things we can correct,” Wilcher said.
Mangham opens the regular season Friday at Rosepine.
Note: Moore and Pleasant were recognized as the Players of the Game during a brief postgame ceremony.