South Grand Prairie and Arlington High helped commence the 2016 football season on Thursday night in the Gopher Warrior Bowl. First game jitters were evident for both teams as bad snaps and turnovers hindered the teams throughout the game.
Fortunately for the South Grand Prairie Warriors the Arlington High Colts had two costly fumbles in the fourth quarter which helped South Grand Prairie sneak out a 22-20 victory.
South Grand Prairie running back Andre Johnson had two scores on the ground both from three yards out to put his team up 12-0. Heading into the half with a 12-0 lead, senior defensive back Jeffrey Okudah knew that the game could easily see a different story come the second half against a foe like Arlington High.
“It’s high intensity especially being at home playing some guys we’ve played for a long time. It’s high intensity so we want to come out here and go 1-0 and just get a good start to the season,” said Okudah. “Keep the intensity, one half is not enough, it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
One half definitely was not enough as Arlington High increased their intensity and began to rally around junior running back Kenland McCray. McCray rushed for 193 of his 234 yards in the second half. His first of three touchdowns on the night at the 9:03 mark in the third quarter trimmed SGP’s lead to 12-7.
A few exchanging scoring drives between both teams would have the scoreboard read 22-14 in SGP’s favor. AHS would however have a huge momentum shift and put SGP on their heels as an 85 yard run by Kenland McCray nearly put the start of SGP’s season in the loss column as they aim to take a district from the heavyweights that are DeSoto and Cedar Hill. A failed two point conversion following the touchdown would shed light again onto SGP’s winning hopes with a narrow 22-20 lead with a little more than 11 minutes left. Two fumbles in the fourth quarter by AHS helped seal the win for SGP.
Perhaps the biggest momentum shift for South Grand Prairie in the fourth quarter came from Okudah. Okudah is a 5-star recruit and according to the 247Sports Composite is the No.1 ranked cornerback in the nation. He is also ranked the No.6 overall player in the nation and the No.2 overall prospect in Texas.
So when Jeffrey Okudah missed an open field tackle against AHS receiver Rashad Anderson on a 3rd & 5 play at the 8:17 mark from the AHS 49, the Arlington High crowd erupted as the completion to the left side went all the way down to the SGP 23. But big time players make big time plays and that is exactly how Okudah responded. Following the completion AHS would be penalized ten yards on the next snap. AHS would then fumble at the SGP 33 and lo and behold it would be Okuda with the fumble recovery hoisting the ball high in the air to signal the change of possession.
“When I missed the tackle I was a little bit upset at myself. I wanted to come back and follow it up with something that would really silence the crowd. Recovering the fumble changed the momentum back to our side.”
Big plays like that by Okudah are what garners interest from programs such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida State and USC. He has yet to fully commit to a program, but he will make his first official visit on Sept. 17 when Ohio State heads to Norman to take on Oklahoma. Ohio State is currently the heavy favorite to land him.
The recruiting process along with being a student-athlete at South Grand Prairie High School has not been something too stressful for the 17-year-old. He finds being a high school student as his main concern.
“I just enjoy being a high schooler. You’re only in high school four years so I’m just trying to enjoy everything. I consider this a job and I take my job very seriously.”
South Grand Prairie looks to build upon its seven win season last year and put up a fight in the 7-6A district that is home to Cedar Hill and DeSoto. The grind-it-out mentality of South Grand Prairie looks to be the key for the Warriors as they begin their season journey.
“I think what we have at SGP is grit. A lot of players on our team our versatile so it goes a long way when we go against teams like that,” said Okudah.
He hopes that this season can be better than last year which had been the Warriors’ best since 2008. Jeffrey Okudah wants to help his team build a proud tradition and looks to do it one game at a time in his senior season.
“I want to be known as someone who really helped make a change for the South Grand Prairie Warriors.”