The East Central football team seemed to back up all the buzz with a 23-0 jamboree win over Pascagoula Friday night.
The Hornets will sit and watch while most of the state begins the regular season next week, but they should travel to Biloxi on Aug. 25 for their first game with plenty of confidence.
"I was proud of them," East Central coach Seth Smith said. "There are still a ton of things we can get better at, but we live and die off effort and attitude. I felt like defense set the tone early and we were able to follow suit offensively. If you can play defense and you can block, you've got a chance to be successful. I thought our kids did that tonight.
The story of the night for East Central was the play of its defense with senior safety Andrew Seward, who had an interception, and junior linebacker Avery White appearing in midseason form against a team that's become a perennial power in Jackson County.
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On Friday night, East Central resembled the best team in Jackson County.
East Central got in the end zone three times, including an impressive 20-yard touchdown catch by Mississippi State commit Brad Cumbest, a senior tight end.
East Central junior quarterback Rylee Brown lifted the pass high in the air and Cumbest managed to pull off an acrobatic one-handed catch as he fell back into the end zone.
"I couldn't get under the ball so I just had to grab it with one hand," Cumbest said. "That's all I could do."
Cumbest had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
"He went to camps all summer and competed against some of the best kids not just in the state but in the country," Smith said. "I think that gave him a lot of confidence."
Senior fullback Louis Morgan had the first touchdown of the night, running it up the gut from 18 yards out and senior Tony Brown, who had 41 touchdowns last season, had the final score on a 17-yard scamper up the middle.
Junior kicker Branson Davis started off the scoring with a 39-yard field goal on East Central's first possession.
Smith spread the ball around, allowing most of his skill players to have their touches.
Senior running back Trey Abney was very busy for Pascagoula Friday night, running 11 times for 89 yards. His biggest run of the night was a 45-yard run to midfield in the first quarter.
Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims knows his team has plenty of work to do before it travels to Moss Point for the season opener on Aug. 18.
"We showed that we need to mature quite a bit, but that's on me as a head coach," Sims said. "I've got to do a better job of coaching these guys."
East Central operated out of the shotgun for much of the night, a move that Pascagoula clearly wasn't expecting.
"We got tired, we were out of position," Sims said of his defense. "We had people who didn't take care of their jobs."