A year ago, the East Central football team had to put huge numbers on the scoreboard to pick up a win.
If Friday night's 24-10 win over Biloxi is a good indicator, the Hornets have the rough and tumble defense to match its high-powered offense.
East Central rallied from a 10-0 deficit after one quarter to pick up a win in the team's season opener.
"In the years past, we had to score 40 or 50 points to win," East Central coach Seth Smith said. "These kids are a special. A lot of time of times at halftime I have to go in and rant and rave. I was calm as a little cucumber because these kids understand what it takes to win.
"If you're going to be a championship team, you've got to have a great defense and defense won the game tonight. I was so proud of them."
The East Central defense was led by senior safety Andrew Seward and the solid linebacker duo of Cade Miles and Avery White.
Seward was a physical force in the secondary, delivering several hard hits.
"I think we're 10 times better than we was last year," Seward said of his defense "We're way faster, way more physical. We can spread each other out now. We don't have to be tight and blitz so hard."
Seward finished with 11 tackles (seven solo) and had two tackles for lost yardage. Miles added 10 tackles (seven solo) and a sack. White tied Seward for the team lead in tackles and also had an athletic interception in the fourth quarter.
East Central senior running back Tony Brown had another monster night with the ball in his hands, carrying 26 times for 236 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown that gave the Hornets a 16-10 lead with 9:11 remaining in the game.
The Biloxi defense did a good job of limiting the East Central rushing attack early on, but Brown and company began to break some big gainers as the game wore on.
"We had to get together, communicate," Brown said. "We had to see what they were doing on film and we corrected it at halftime."
Biloxi, which had senior quarterback Brodie King go down with an injury in a 21-10 loss to St. Stanislaus in the opener, had a promising start to the game behind junior quarterback Kamron Suddeth.
Cade Ganey kicked a 31-yard field goal to give Biloxi a 3-0 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter and Camren Rouse broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run, building a 10-0 lead for the Indians to close out the opening quarter.
"I thought our kids played their hearts out," Biloxi coach Bobby Hall said. "I thought defensively we played really well. We put together a couple of good drives. We just have not at this point had enough firepower on offense to give our defense a chance."
East Central got going when Rylee Brown punched it in from 1 yard out for a touchdown midway through the second quarter to cut the lead to 10-7 midway through the second quarter.
Junior Branson Davis tied the game at 10-10 with a 37-yard field goal with 4:08 remaining.
The final score of the night came from Ryan Evans, who had a short touchdown run with 40 seconds left.
"Penalties killed us tonight, but that happens in first games," Smith said. "Credit Biloxi's defense. That's as good of a defense as we've faced here in three years. Their defense was as advertised and they'll have a great year."