Eli Extine

Eli Extine (15) breaks a tackle with an assist from Landon Graves (5) during Ouachita Christian's Week 5 game vs. Delhi. (Photo by Brad Sanson/Sprig Designs)

Sole possession of first place in District 2-1A will be on the line when Oak Grove (4-2, 3-0) and Ouachita Christian (5-1, 3-0) clash Friday night in Lamkin.

Oak Grove has won the previous two meetings, including a lopsided 64-35 verdict last season in West Carroll Parish on its was to the conference title and a Class 1A state runner-up finish.

“It’s been a fun rivalry through the years,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh says. “This game always brings a lot of excitement. I think it’s a good matchup. It’ll come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”

Oak Grove started 1-2 against a tough pre-district slate with a 33-21 loss to Class 5A Benton, a 46-32 win over Class 2A Rayville and a 17-14 setback to Class 3A Sterlington. Since then, the Tigers have won three straight over Delhi Charter (56-8), St. Frederick (21-7) and Tensas (52-12).

As usual, the first priority when defending Oak Grove is to contain the option. But this year, the Eagles will also have to respect the pass. Quarterback Braden Sullivan’s primary targets are wide receivers Kyle Saddler and freshman Artavian Craft.

“They can still run the ball, but they can pass the ball, as well. I would say more so than in years past,” coach Fitzhugh said.

Tailback/return specialist/defensive back Otis Moore is the focal point of the Tigers’ offense.

All eyes will be on a matchup of strength vs. strength in the trenches where OCS’ highly-regarded offensive line is tasked with blocking The Grove’s fierce defensive line. Kansas commit Kenean Caldwell and Louisiana Tech pledge Bert Hale anchor The Grove’s front four.

“We want see another defensive line as talented as theirs with two D-1 guys in Kenean and Bert,” coach Fitzhugh said. “I’m glad those guys are seniors. They have given us trouble for years.”

OCS, meanwhile, is down two of its three starting defensive linemen. Junior nose guard Henry Messinger will undergo surgery for a season-ending injury Thursday, and junior end James Forte will follow suit Friday.

“Those are two good kids, who love the game and love working out in the weight room,” Fitzhugh said. “James is always first in line on sprints. You hate it for them as well as for the team.”

Both appeared in four games. Forte recorded 17 tackles with five tackles for loss and two sacks, while Messinger tallied 11 stops, two TFLs and one sack.

End Christian Gray and nose guard Jacob Ogden have joined end Christopher Holyfield on the starting front. Gray had a season-high eight tackles, and caused and recovered a fumble in last week’s 42-6 win at Cedar Creek.

“I thought Christian Gray, our senior defensive end, played his best game against Cedar Creek,” coach Fitzhugh said. “When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up, which is what Christian did last week.”

Gray is now the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 26 stops, three for negative yardage, and one sack. Linebacker Ethan Hogan and free safety Will Fitzhugh share the team lead with 34 tackles, followed by linebacker Grant Mashaw (31 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles).

OCS has out-gained its opponents by an average margin of 359.1-206.5 yards per game. The Eagles average 239.3 ypg on the ground and 119.8 through the air, while limiting foes to 117.2 yards rushing and 89.3 passing.

Most notably, the Eagles are plus-16 (20-4) in turnover margin. OCS has 15 turnovers off of fumble recoveries to go with five interceptions. Offensively, the Eagles have protected the football, committing just four turnovers on two fumbles and a pair of picks.

“I have challenged our kids to get better every week, and I feel like we have,” coach Fitzhugh said. “We haven’t had a lot of hiccups. I think our guys have played pretty steady for most of the year.”

Will Fitzhugh (2,853 rushing yards) needs just 62 yards to pass Ahkeem Henderson and move into the No. 4 spot on the school’s all-time rushing list. For the season, the senior has 43 carries for 468 yards and eight touchdowns.

Quarterback Hunter Herring has passed for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Eli Extine (11 receptions, 146 yards, 1 TD) and Tristan Wiley (9-172-2) are among Herring’s go-to receivers.

Friday’s game marks the start of a three-game homestead for the Eagles, who also host Tensas (Oct. 25) and St. Frederick (Thursday, Oct. 31).

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STARTING LINEUPS

OAK GROVE DEFENSE

DE — Bryson Baker (jr.)

NG — Burt Hale (sr.)

DE — Kenean Caldwell (sr.)

LB — Trey Allen (sr.)

LB — Lane Warren (jr.)

LB — Kaleb Proctor (so.)

LB — Ron Craten (jr.)

CB — Zack Hegwood (so.)

CB — Ty Porter (fr.)

S — Deuce Clement (jr.)

S — Kelvin Holloway (jr.)

OCS OFFENSE

LT — Grant Mashaw (sr.)

LG — Casey Cobb (so.)

C — Andy Weatherford (so.)

RG — James David Miller (so.)

RT — Garrett Folds (sr.)

SE — Tristen Wiley (so.)

SE — Will Fitzhugh (sr.)

FL — Eli Extine (sr.)

RB — Dillon Dougan (jr.)

RB — Van David Matherne (jr.)

QB — Hunter Herring (jr.)

OAK GROVE OFFENSE

TE — Reid Milligan (jr.)

LT — EJ Anderson (jr.)

LG — Cole Pennock (sr.)

C — Jacob Madden (sr.)

RG — Kade Klink (jr.)

RT — Jacob Gunter (sr.)

WR — Kyle Sander (sr.)

WR — Artavian Craft (fr.)

QB — Braden Sullivan (sr.)

FB — Ron Craten (jr.) / Trey Allen (sr.)

TB — Otis Moore (sr.)

OCS DEFENSE

DE — Christopher Holyfield (jr.)

DE — Christian Gray (jr.)

NG — Jacob Ogden (sr.)

LB — Grant Mashaw (sr.)

LB — Jon-Thomas Dixon (sr.)

LB — Ethan Hogan (sr.)

SS — Aidan Ham (jr.)

SS — Kade Woods (so.)

CB — Walker Morris (sr.)

CB — Eli Extine (sr.)

FS — Will Fitzhugh (sr.)

OAK GROVE SPECIAL TEAMS

K — James Clack (jr.)

H — Braden Sullivan (sr.)

KR — Otis Moore (sr.)

OCS SPECIAL TEAMS

K — Samuel Harrell (so.)

DS — John Daniel Thomas (jr.)

H — Walker Morris (sr.)

P — Landon Graves (fr.)

KR — Will Fitzhugh (sr.)

 

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