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A Madison Central ball carrier is brought down by Horn Lake linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) with help from fellow linebacker Michael Campbell during last week’s 6A North Half Championship game, a 16-7 Horn Lake victory. The undefeated Eagles play Oak Grove at Southern Miss Friday night at 7 p.m.

Fans of the Horn Lake Eagles football team were set to send their squad on the way to Hattiesburg Thursday morning in search of a gold football. The undefeated Eagles will be heading south for the University of Southern Mississippi and M.M. Roberts Stadium, where they face Oak Grove in the MHSAA 6A state championship game Friday evening at 7 p.m.

Horn Lake will put its unblemished 14-0 record and top state ranking on the line against the 12-2 Warriors, which finished runner-up to Brandon for the Region 3-6A championship. Oak Grove prevailed 21-10 over Brandon last week in the South State Championship game.

The Eagles will have the backing of all of DeSoto County, regardless of school colors, as they trek the 280 miles for Saturday’s game.

In fact, Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite posted on social media late Tuesday his backing for his fellow DeSoto County community.

“I am so proud of this team and happy for our neighboring city,” Musselwhite wrote. “We have healthy sports rivalries in this county that have existed for many decades, but it’s kind of like when you fight with your brother...it’s all good when you scrap in your yard with each other, but you ain’t gonna let nobody touch him when you leave your home turf!”

Musselwhite added, “I’m on the Eagles’ train this weekend! Somebody send me a hat! Good luck Friday night in Hattiesburg against Oak Grove for ‘all the marbles.’ You got this!”

Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer added Wednesday he is very proud of how the football team has represented his city.

“The great thing about this team is the character they have exhibited, not only on the football field but at school and in the community,” Latimer said. “They don’t quit. They dig in their heels and it shows all of the commitment they’ve had to their practices.”

In posting its perfect record thus far, Horn Lake has been dominating in most of the games the Eagles have played, averaging 38.79 points scored a game while allowing 10.07 points allowed.

While shutting out only one opponent this year, half of the Eagles’ wins have seen the losing team score less than 10 points. The 19-0 first-round win against Warren Central was the only shutout fashioned by Horn Lake.

At the same time, last week’s 16-7 win over Madison Central played in the rain and slop of a soaked Horn Lake football field was the lowest offensive point total achieved by the Eagles this fall. Horn Lake has scored as many as 52 points in one game, against Charleston and again against Southaven. 

Only three times this season have the Eagles been held under 30 points in a game.  

Oak Grove has a potent scoring offense, also, as shown by the 40 or more points the Warriors have scored in five appearances this season. The Warriors’ defense has allowed 10 or fewer points five times, including a season-opening 49-0 shutout of Purvis.

Friday night’s game is virgin territory for the DeSoto County representative as Horn Lake has never played in a state final game before. For Oak Grove, it will be the fifth finals appearance, but the first since 2014. The Warriors won the state title in 2013 and finished second the following year.

But, then again, Horn Lake has never had as many Division I athletes play on one team, and a Butkus Award finalist in Nakobe Dean, the most sought-after linebacker recruit in the country.

It could be the final chapter in a very magical season for the school on Church Road.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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