“This group ended up buying into what we asked them to do and because of that, we got back to the State Championship game.” - Drew Causey
For every head coach that is half the battle. Getting your players to buy into what you want and need them to do. For Causey, he saw his team fully buy into what they needed when their backs were against the wall and the regular season all but became a playoff season to get back to the playoffs after making the 6A State Championship a season prior.
Causey led his team to a 11-4 overall record, with a 5-2 district record, along with a 6A South State Championship win and 6A State Championship appearance.
“Looking back it was a great season. We had a lot of highs and lows. Overall, our guys played hard. This group ended up buying into what we asked them to do and because of that, we got back to the State Championship game. We fell short but in 6A south and the region we play in to represent the south is special. There is still a lot of sting in losing the last one, but once we get back to work and get going for next year that’ll die down a bit. I’m still so proud of our guys the way they played all season,” said Causey.
Causey reflected on the first half of the season and broke down what he saw from the sidelines.
“We started out 3-0 and I felt like we played well. We beat Wayne County who was a great team that made the playoffs. We went and beat Gulfport. They had lost the one game in the regular-season until we beat them in the playoffs again. Then Hattiesburg, who always has ge=reat athletes. They always have a well-coached team. That’s a big rivalry game that can go either way. I was proud of the guys after that game because it was the first time we had gotten down. We were down 14-0 just like that and our guys came back, and we won the game. We played Rummel here and we had a lineman get hurt that same week. So we played musical chairs on our line for three straight weeks. I thought we played well against Archbishop Rummel, we didn’t connect on long throws and the run game was off, but the defense played lights out. From that one, we played George County who ended up in the playoffs and was another great football team. We just kind of laid an egg against them. The next week we played Petal who everyone knows is a great team. We had a two and a half-hour lightning delay which we didn’t handle well. Still, I can go back and look at all three ball games and wonder if we don’t have to play musical chairs with the line do we beat Rummel, if we were focused against George County and catch the ball right at the end we could have beaten them, and if we don’t have the lightning delay against Petal if that turns out different,” explained Causey.
He was also proud of the team and how they handled going down 0-2 in district play, to ultimately rally and make the playoffs.
“We picked out a few seniors and juniors from each class and told them what needed to happen and how it had to be with their group. From there everyone kind of bought in knowing their backs were against the wall. It showed a lot of character with that group of young men. It showed how they took that challenge and responded well.”
During the playoffs, Oak Grove was a buzzsaw on offense, averaging 37 points a game before the state title. Causey described what made that run so special.
“We had Ocean Springs here in the first round and we blitzed them. We scored on the third play, got a stop, and scored again. It was 28-0 before you could blink. We went into cruise control in that game during the second half. The Gulfport game was the one that scared me the most because we had already gone down there and defeated them during the season. I knew how much better they were, but getting that translated to the kids was different because they saw 37-13. To go down there and to do it again was special. We challenged our offensive line and told them we are going to run it every snap to see if we can put it in the endzone. It was huge because the whole offense bought into that. The receivers blocked downfield and the quarterback knew to just hand the ball off. We took it down the field, scored, and took over the game. That was one of the biggest hurdles was getting past that game. I knew our guys would get up to play Petal. I knew that because it was the South State Championship. Our guys went and handled business, doing what they were supposed to do. It was an exciting night.
Even though the State Championship did not end how they as a team wanted, Causey knows his job and his staff’s job is bigger than a 48-minute game.
“I go back and look at coaches that I’ve had whether it was a position coach or head coach. They cared more about you other than what you could do on the field. That is something that I always try to do, and I might not do it the best at times, but I want these guys to know that someone cares about them outside of just their mom, dad, grandparents, or whoever it is that they live with that they can call on if they need someone. I think it is important because a lot of times we deal with different kids from different backgrounds that may not have a dad in their life. We sometimes have to try and fill that void. They may not be close to their parents so sometimes you have to fill the role of both. Then there are kids with great parents, but they still just need someone to lean on at times. That’s the one thing that I enjoy about this job is you get to love on these kids and show them something different. I hope they see the way I handle things with my kid. He’s at every practice and is a ball boy on Friday nights. To me, that’s our job as a coach. Wins are great, and I’ll be the first to say winning is great. When we lose I’m probably upset the longest. At the end of the day, our job is to make them better men, to lead them to be eventually a better husband and better dad. I think if we can do that, then we’ve been successful.”
Congratulations to Drew Causey, Sports601 Coach of the Year for Forrest, Lamar, and Covington County area.