Oak Grove’s high-octane offense was a major concern for John Burroughs coach John Merritt heading into Friday’s Class 3 championship game at the Edward Jones Dome.
Merritt figured his team would be hard-pressed to stop the Panthers powerful offense and Oak Grove more than lived up to its advance billing.
Oak Grove kept the scoreboard operator busy and the Bombers were simply unable to keep pace as Burroughs fell to the Panthers 49-27.
“I figurted they would probably score in the score in the 40’s, Merritt said. “I was hoping that we would get in the 50’s and we just didn’t get ourselves in the 50’s..”
Oak Grove (13-2) claimed its first state championship by rolling up 417 yards of offense. It was a 22-point second-quarter blitz that allowed the Panthers to go ahead for good at 29-21.
A pair of untimely Burroughs turnovers aided the Panthers surge.
Burroughs raced to a 21-7 lead behind a 53-yard John Moten touchdown runs and a pair of Tre Moore scoring passes before the Bombers had their mojo swiped by Oak Grove.
“We just had two missteps there and then the next thing you know your’e down and they grinded it out, Merritt said.
Oak Grove pulled within 21-14 on a dazzling 72-yard touchdown run by senior star running back Aaron Graham. Graham gashed the Bombers defense for 266 yards rushing on 39 carries with four touchdowns.
Four plays later, Burroughs fumbled and Oak Grove cashed in with a 12-yard Austin Blackston to Zach Hipsher pass. The Panthers moved ahead as Graham ran in the two-point conversion after a Burroughs offside penalty making it 22-21.
A second fumble set Oak Grove up with another short field and Graham finished that drive with a 5-yard touchdown run and the it was off to the races for the Panthers.
Burroughs (13-2) pulled within 36-27 as Moore hit Nathan Van Slyke with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 42 left in the third quarter.
The Bombers would continue to battle in the fourth quarter but would get no closer as the Panthers relled off two more long touchdown drives in the final 7:11 to deny John Burroughs another chance at its first state title since 2001 and seventh in school history.
“I thought that we wore them down, Oak Grove coach Pat Richard said. “You could see it wearing on them as it went along.”
It was the fourth second place finish in five years for John Burroughs but the Bombers would not make excuses or regret making another trip state title game.
“As a high school football player, its everybody’s dream to get a state championship and win it,” Moten said. “It’s something you work four years for and to lose it’s devastating but at the same time, we worked hard and it brought it us closer together and I think that’s what really matters.”
Moten, who is headed to Northwestern University next fall, finished his final game as a Bomber with 162 yards rushing and a touchdown. He leaves Burroughs with 2,566 yards rushing at the end of his senior season.