Madison Central demonstrated Friday night why it is one of the favorite teams for the Mississippi Class 6A crown, rolling up 344 yards rushing in beating Ocean Springs 35-13.
However, Jaguars coach Anthony Hart was not completely satisfied after the game with his team’s play. “We played well in spurts,” he said. “We needed a little more focus tonight.”
While saying there were no excuses, Hart said last week’s Madison Central 10-3 defensive win over Brandon and a long drive down from Madison may have sapped energy from the Jaguars this week.
And, he said, Ocean Springs’ competitive spirit didn’t help the Jaguars after a long trip.
“They did a good job,” Hart said. “They are a good team and played very hard.”
Ocean Springs Ryan Ross said the Greyhounds made a lot of improvement since opening with a 31-21 loss to Gautier.
“I am very pleased with our effort,” he said, adding that the Jaguars, who came within a game of playing for the state championship last year, and returned 10 defensive starters from that team, might be the best team the Greyhounds will face this year. “If it is not them (as the best team Ocean Springs will face this year), they will be very close. They are an excellent football team and are extremely well-coached.”
Despite dropping to 0-2 on the year, Ross said the game will help the Greyhounds as they get into district play later this year.
“That’s why we play games like this early,” Ross said. “You would like to win every game, but you also want to get better as a football game. This game will help us get better.”
Cameron White had a huge game for the Jaguars (2-0) running for 187 yards on only 10 carries, scoring three touchdowns and setting up a fourth.
In the first quarter, a pair of J.D. Hull throws — a 26-yard completion to Jimmy Holiday and an 11-yard toss to Hunter Blalock — set up White’s first score of the night, a 1-yard plunge.
White, though, would start to warm up late in the first quarter, ripping off a 52-yard run to set up a 24-yard Hull run that ran the score to 14-0. In the second quarter, after Blake Noblin connected with Darien Wallace on a 13-yard scoring play to cut the Jaguars lead in half, 14-7, White ripped off a 72-yard run to extend Madison’s lead back to two touchdowns, 21-7 at the half.
Ocean Springs would hog the ball in the second half, thanks, in part, to converting four fourth-down plays over the final 24 minutes of the game, but Hull and White would combine to lead the Jaguars on a quick-scoring drive to open the third quarter. Hull set up the score with a 26-yard run and, three plays later, White capped the drive with a 24-yard power run, running over a couple of Greyhounds along the way.
“He’s a really good player,” said Hart of White. “He’s big. He’s strong. He is a really physical player.”
Ross was unhappy that his team gave up big plays for the second consecutive game. Five times White or Hull carried the ball for big plays and 200 yards, with White having two carries that counted for 126 yard. Hull also threw a pass for 26 yards.
“We are giving up too many explosive plays,” he said. “They only drove the ball once on us.”
While Ross was unhappy the Greyhounds are allowing yards in bunches, he was happy with the way the offense held onto the ball and scrappily moved the ball against a tough Jaguars defense. Despite only 195 yards, the Greyhounds eked out 16 first downs, four coming after converting on fourth down.
“We want to control the ball, and we have confidence in our offensive line providing the push to convert those plays,” Ross said. “And they converted those plays tonight.”
Ross was also happy with his team’s protecting the ball. The Greyhounds fumbled only once on the night — and got it back — and Noblin threw only one interception, although Myles Hopson returned it for Madison Central’s final touchdown.
The tough Jaguars defense, led by eight stops from Mason Knowles, also pleased Hart.
“They are an old group back there,” he said. “They have played together for a long time and have very good chemistry.”
The Greyhounds were able to add two long field goals in the second half with Ashton Garner converting on tries of 45 and 44 yards.
Daveaunce Gaines led the Greyhounds with 46 yards on 15 carries.
Hull added 65 yards on eight carries for Madison Central. Holiday ran five times for 37 yards and caught a pass for 26 yards.