St. Martin football coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead remembers well what happened a year ago after his squad fell 31-29 on a late field goal at Ocean Springs.
The loss was the first of two in the Yellow Jackets’ final three games, including a 34-33 defeat to rival D’Iberville in the season finale to keep them out of the playoffs.
“Both of them were gut-wrenching,” Whitehead said Wednesday. “I didn’t sleep for weeks. Especially D’Iberville being that last one. I’ve replayed that last play in my mind over a thousand times.”
On Friday night against Ocean Springs, Whitehead and his Yellow Jackets can take a big step toward erasing last year’s disappointment of falling one win shy of the team’s first postseason bid since 2003.
St. Martin (6-3, 3-1) hosts Ocean Springs (4-4, 1-3) at 7 p.m. in a crucial Region 4-6A contest for both teams. A win by the Yellow Jackets puts them very close to the postseason while a win by Ocean Springs can keep the Greyhounds’ playoff hopes alive.
“Four (region) wins doesn’t guarantee you’re in, but a win kind of puts them out,” Whitehead said. “That’s one more team that’s out. You start eliminating folks.”
St. Martin knows a win Friday might not assure it of a playoff bid after falling short last year with a 4-3 mark in region play.
“This week is the first time we’ve mentioned (the postseason) other than having an early goal of making the playoffs,” Whitehead said. “We told them that the goal of winning the region is all in front of you. You’ve got to take care of business.”
St. Martin has won four of its last five games while Ocean Springs is riding a three-game losing streak.
Ocean Springs can rely on senior receiver Austin Williams (a Mississippi State commit) and junior quarterback Malcolm Magee, but the Greyhounds will be missing some key pieces against St. Martin.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys out,” Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross said, acknowledging that his offensive line is banged up. “We’ve got a lot of young guys stepping up and getting playing experience. “I feel confident our guys are going to put their best effort forward and try to make a game out of it. St. Martin, they’re so talented. They know what’s ahead of us, what we’re going to face Friday night.”
The biggest challenge for Ocean Springs will be slowing down St. Martin senior quarterback Wayne Overman and his favorite target, senior receiver Kalem Reddix, who ranks second in the nation in receiving yardage.
Reddix has 66 catches for 1,485 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He’s just 20 yards behind the nation’s leader in receiving yardage, Luke Montgomery of Springfield, Missouri.
“Ever since middle school, Kalem has always been a good athlete and made plays,” Ross said. “From what I’ve seen on film, he’s improved in every facet of his game from last year. He’s done a great job of getting better as a player.
“He’s like a tailback after he catches the football. We’ll have to try to get him to the ground.”
The St. Martin defense has shown improvement in region play, giving up the fewest points against region competition in 4-6A — 88 for an average of 22 points a game. The Yellow Jackets were allowing 39.8 points a game before the start of region play.
“It’s been better,” Whitehead said of his defense. “We still have our moments. We’re not doing as much as we want. All 11 guys have to be in tune every play. We can’t have a guy on the back end that gets beat and makes us look horrible.”
The St. Martin secondary will have its hands full in stopping Williams, who has been the best playmaker all season for Ocean Springs. He has 30 catches for 429 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We know Ross is going to have a couple of special plays,” Whitehead said. “We’re trying to get ready for everything. Their quarterback is going to run the show with his running ability and throwing. We’ll definitely be trying to contain him.”
Who: Ocean Springs vs. St. Martin
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: St. Martin
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