Cedar Creek at Ouachita Christian 22Oct2020

The Ouachita Christian Eagles beat the Cedare Creek Cougars 50-20 at Steen Fitzhugh Field at Eagle Stadium. Photo by TOM MORRIS/The Ouachita Citizen. c.2020.TomMorrisPhotos.com. All Rights Reserved

It was like déjà vu.

Hunter Herring was back in the saddle for the Ouachita Christian Eagles after missing last week’s game against Delhi for precautionary reasons. Part of me feels like OCS head coach Steven Fitzhugh wanted it that way after what took place last season.

Call it “bro science” on my part.

Because it’s difficult to not think back to when the Eagles defeated Oak Grove, 40-21, with a freshman quarterback in Landon Graves as the signal caller. Graves filled in for Herring, who had to miss with a neck injury at the time, and the freshman quarterback turned heads across the state by completing 16-of-23 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.

You already know what the questions were that followed? “Is that Sol Graves boy?” To the surprise of everyone who asked that question, Landon is actually of no relation to Dr. Sol Graves, who still holds numerous passing records at OCS.

(I feel like I should have written this a year ago because of how many times people have asked this question.)

After Graves’ performance, by the way, Dr. Graves said he received all kinds of “congratulations” texts from coaches.

He might have played like a young Sol Graves, but Landon Graves was simply a freshman sensation, and this year he’s gotten even better. Last week against Delhi, Landon completed 5-of-7 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

But that’s not the déjà vu I’m referring to. Nope, the déjà vu set in when Herring lit up Cedar Creek one week after sitting out against Delhi. Herring finished the game with 168 rushing yards and six touchdown rushes in OCS’ 50-20 victory over the Cougars. Herring ran the football with authority, and dare I say, looked like he was playing with a huge chip on his shoulder. And that’s where my “bro science” theory comes into play.

Because if you recall, that’s exactly what Herring looked like last year, one week after the Oak Grove game when he completed 13-of-20 passes for 122 yards and four scores. Herring admitted as much after the fact.

Missing the 2019 Oak Grove game hurt Herring’s confidence at the time, and though he loves Landon as a teammate, Graves’ success on the field motivated Herring to be the best version of himself during OCS’ state championship run. The Eagles were better for it.

“I think I was definitely down that entire week, but after getting some good news and coming back, I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder,” Herring said.

Herring went on to earn The Ouachita Citizen’s Offensive Player of the Year and was on the Louisiana Sports Writers Class 1A squad after accounting for 2,917 yards (1,794 rushing, 1,123 passing) of total offense and 52 touchdowns (27 passing, 25 rushing) in his first year to play quarterback at any level.

Now it’s time for the OCS/Oak Grove rematch, and there isn’t any way Herring is missing this one. Herring missed his sophomore year against Oak Grove due to a concussion before sitting out of last year’s contest with his neck injury. In a heavily anticipated matchup between two defending state champions within the same district, you can count on a heavy dose of Herring Friday night in Oak Grove.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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