Oak Grove playing in third straight title game, back to defend crown
While Grand Lake is set to make its first-ever championship game appearance, lined up across from the Hornets will be one of the historically strongest teams in Class 1A.
The No. 1 Oak Grove Tigers are the defending champs and making their third consecutive championship game appearance. The Tigers bring back plenty of experience from last year’s title run.
“We lost some key names from last year’s team, but we have 10 of our 12 seniors that played last year,” Oak Grove head coach Ryan Gregory said. “We have a lot of experience from those games.
“We always think we have a chance, and we have a lot of three-year starters back. These guys are looking to do something special (repeat as champions).”
Oak Grove has won five of 10 state championship games it has played.
The Tigers have four four-year starters in quarterback Duece Clement, tight end/linebacker Dalton Allen, fullback Ron Craten, the MVP of last year’s 1A state championship game, and offensive guard Kade Klink.
Klink and left tackle E.J. Anderson (6-0, 245 pounds) lead the Tigers’ physical run game. Craten, Clement and receiver Bud Holloway have combined for nearly 2,600 yards and 37 touchdowns. The Tigers are averaging 44.5 points a game.
“Those guys (offensive line) have had an outstanding year,” Gregory said. “Our offense goes as they go.
“We have some explosive players, but it is all a moot point without them. I think our strength is how physical we are. Our guys play physical on both sides of the football. They are smart football players. They know their assignments and know what is expected of them every week. We are not quite as big as we were last year, we usually are bigger. It is genetics up here. We have some bigger guys.”
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Allen, who recently decommitted from Southern Mississippi, anchors the Tigers’ defense at linebacker with 55 tackles.
Gregory said the defensive line was his greatest concern going into the season with the loss of two Division I players Kenean Caldwell (Kansas) and Bert Hale (Louisiana Tech). But returning nose guard Bryson Baker (38 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss) along with Reid Milligan (37 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 TFL) and Montarius Freeman (33 tackles, 2 sacks) have picked up the slack on a defense that has allowed 11.3 points a game.
“I just couldn’t be more pleased with those guys,” Gregory said. “The biggest question we had was replacing the front, but they have been so impressive.
“Early in the season, offensively, it took us a little while to start clicking. We played a really tough Sterlington team out of the gate. We just were not clicking on offense, but our defense was lights out. To see the defense play the way they did through those weeks was impressive.”