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By Robert Wilson
Photos by Jared Thomas
Sam Williams has a lot of big wins over his five-year head coaching career and can now say he has defeated a nationally ranked team.
The first-year Brandon coach led his Bulldogs to a 24-17 victory over defending MSHAA Class 6A champion andTop 100 nationally ranked Oak Grove Friday night in a big 6A-Region 3 game at Brandon.
Brandon won its sixth consecutive game to improve to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in region play. Oak Grove, which dropped to 6-2 and 3-1, had its 19-game winning streak against MHSAA teams stopped. The last time the Warriors lost to an MHSAA team was a 31-21 decision to Oxford for the 2019 6A state championship. Oak Grove’s only other loss this season was a 48-41 decision to nationally ranked Greenville Christian of the MAIS. Oak Grove has won 27 of its last 28 games against MHSAA competition and has been in the 6A state championship game for the past three seasons. The Warriors have won more games than any team in 6A in the past six seasons. Oak Grove has beaten Brandon in the last three meetings, 24-22 last season, 36-28 in 2019 and 21-10 in the 6A playoffs in 2018 and the Warriors are ranked No. 83 in the nation in the High School Football America’s Top 100 poll.
But tonight, Brandon looked like the nationally ranked team, especially when sophomore running back Nate Blount had the ball. Blount, sometimes getting a direct snap, gained 260 yards on 36 carries, and one touchdown. Junior Jarvis Durr added 150 yards and scored two TDs, including the game-winner on a 45-yard run with 7 minutes, 55 seconds to play.
“I’m so proud of guys and my coaches tonight,” said Williams, a former Northwest Rankin High and Mississippi State wide receiver who led Pelahatchie to a 27-11 record and took the Chiefs to the Class 2A playoffs all three seasons. He then went to Ridgeland where he led the Titans to a 10-3 record and the Class 5A semifinals. “I’m not surprised at this group and how we have played. (Defensive coordinator) Coach Rob (Greg Robinson) has those guys on defense playing great. We only gave up 10 points on defense tonight (Oak Grove had an interception return for a TD in the first half). We’ve got two good running backs and our sophomore quarterback (Landon Varnes) has blossomed this season.
”Jaylen Aborom’s 46-yard interception return gave Oak Grove a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Durr scored on a 30-yard run for a 7-7 tie in the second quarter. J.Q. Gray scored on a 3-yard run on fourth-and-goal for a 14-7 Oak Grove lead with 3:27 to play before halftime. Blount scored on a 45-yard run for a 14-14 tie after Oak Grove started off the second half with a failed onside kick. Jalen Ballard kicked a 34-yard field goal for a 17-14 Brandon lead with 2:54 to play in the third quarter. Byron Easterling kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 17-17 tie with 9:01 to play before Durr’s game-winning TD run.