By Robert Wilson
Photos by Chris Todd
Brandon, under first-year coach Sam Williams, is going to the MHSAA Class 6A state championship game for the second time in school history.
The Bulldogs stopped a two-point conversion in the final minute to get there.
Brandon edged defending 6A state champion Oak Grove 21-20 Friday night in the semifinals when Oak Grove went for the win on a two-point conversion with 45 seconds to play. After Oak Grove scored a TD on a 1-yard Cameron Sheppard run, coach Drew Causey decided to go for the win and tried a reverse pass, but Brandon put pressure on wide receiver Tyrell Pollard, who threw incomplete in the end zone.
Then Oak Grove recovered an onside kick and drove to the Brandon 40, but failed on fourth-and-7 with 14 seconds to play and Brandon ran out the clock for the win.
Brandon improved to 11-2 and won its 11th straight game. Brandon has played in one other state championship game, losing to South Panola 31-23 in 2012. Brandon had lost six other semifinals games, Oak Grove in 2014 and 2018, Moss Point in 2000 and 2001, Hattiesburg in 1992 and Meridian in 1990. Brandon meets Madison Central, 12-1, for the 6A state title Friday at 7 p.m. at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Brandon’s last loss was a 42-19 decision Sept. 3 at Madison Central in the second game of the season.
Oak Grove finished 10-3 and broke a four-game winning streak. Oak Grove hadn’t lost since a 24-17 decision at Brandon on Oct. 22. Oak Grove had won 24 of its last 26 games and 32 of it last 35 games before Friday night and has been in the state championship each of the last three seasons.
Brandon, playing without super sophomore running back Nate Blount for the second straight week (out with an injury), broke away from a 7-7 halftime tie when junior running back Jarvis Durr (20 carries for 178 yards and two TDs) scored on runs of 77 and 3 yards for a 21-7 lead with 5:08 to play in the game. Durr now has 1,020 yards and 15 TDs this season.
Oak Grove senior quarterback Kabe Barnett completed 22 of 44 passes for 234 yards and two TDs.
“The kids played a complete game,” said Williams, who came to Brandon from Ridgeland and has also been a head coach at Pelahatchie. “I was so proud of the fight and heart they displayed tonight. So many chances to doubt and not believe, but we kept on fighting. This bunch is special. We have to go finish this thing now.
“Jarvis has been a great player for us all year. When Nate went down, we told him it’s time. He’s played great the last three games and he did a great job making some explosive plays to seal the game tonight. Our kids played the 2-point conversion perfectly. I couldn’t be more proud of the competitive excellence they showed in the biggest moment of their careers.”