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Oak Grove holds off Starkville for 33-28 win to clinch 2023 MHSAA 7A State Championship

The Warriors put an exclamation mark on an incredible playoff run with a win over the defending champs

OXFORD, Miss. — Trey Petty might have won the Mr. Football Award, but A.J. Maddox got the trophy he really wanted Saturday night.

The Oak Grove quarterback completed 15 of his 20 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown to propel the Warriors to a 33-28 win over the defending champion Starkville Yellowjackets before a raucous crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the Ole Miss campus.

“This is amazing,” Maddox said. “I feel so blessed to get to come out here and play with my guys and bring home the first-ever 7A State Championship. This is incredible.”

The Warriors (13-1) survived a furious rally from the Yellow Jackets (10-4) after jumping out to a quick two-touchdown lead in the first quarter.

The Grovers took the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards before Kylin Champagne found pay dirt from the one-yard line.

On Starkville’s first possession, Jalen Owens picked off a screen pass and raced 63 yards the other way for a pick-six that put Oak Grove ahead 14-0 with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

“Not many people do it,” Oak Grove coach Drew Causey said. “But if I win the toss, I want the ball first. I don’t ever want to give the other team a chance to score first. We marched it right down the field… then we had the huge pick-six… I think there was some talk this week on some of the earlier broadcasts about how we would handle the physicality of a team like Starkville, and I think we proved that we could.”

The 14-point head start came in handy — Starkville scored halfway through the second quarter after a 47-yard drive on an eight-yard run from Petty to trim the lead to 14-6. After a 35-yard Luke Stewart field goal, Petty hit Stonka Burnside in stride for a 49-yard touchdown strike that made it 17-12 with 48 seconds left in the first half.

It looked like that would be the score going into halftime, but Maddox hit Damari Jefferson on back-to-back passes of 31 and 22 yards, and the latter put Oak Grove ahead 23-12 going into the break.

In the third quarter, the Warrior defense forced a couple of punts before the offense put together an 11-play, 63-yard scoring drive that was capped by a double-reverse pass from Jefferson to Nehemiah Taylor.

That stretched the Warrior lead to 30-12, and it started to look like the game might turn into a blowout.

But the defending champs responded with another long touchdown pass when Petty found Philip Swann wide open over the middle and hit him for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

The successful two-point conversion trimmed the Warrior lead back to 30-20, and after the Starkville defense held Oak Grove to a chip-shot field goal with a goal-line stand, Petty tossed his third touchdown pass to Jontavious Rogers to cut it to 33-28 with 4:15 to go.

But Oak Grove weathered the storm — the defense forced two turnover on downs in the final 2:25 to clinch the victory.

“Defense wins championships,” Causey said. “They definitely bowed their neck tonight, and when we got ourselves in a bind in the fourth quarter, they bowed up and won the game for us at the end.”

Oak Grove’s big defensive linemen — widely regarded as the best defensive line unit in the state — showed up in a big way. Southern Miss commit Caleb Moore led the way with eight tackles, and junior sensation Drew Maddox had six stops.

Offensively, Champagne and Taji Burkett combined for 138 rushing yards. Jefferson and P.J. Woodland each brought in four passes for 63 and 61 yards, respectively.

The championship was the third for the Oak Grove football program and second in four years.

Petty was heroic in defeat for Starkville. The senior and future University of Illinois star completed just 9-of-25 passes, but finished with 195 yards of total offense and four touchdowns on a night when he was chased relentlessly by Oak Grove's big linemen.

He’s a part of a senior class that won a state championship last year, won North State twice and played for it three times.

“This has been an incredible group of guys,” Starkville coach Chris Jones said. “They won a bunch of football games, one state championship and played for another. My message to them after this one was simple — ‘Thank you.’”

Photos by Austin Frayser and Lauren Witte

Stonka Burnside, Starkville
Oak Grove Warriors
Trey Petty, Starkville