The Hancock senior class had known nothing but heartbreak to Ocean Springs.
But cornerback Everett Ganier Jr. was not going to let it happen again Friday night at Greyhound Stadium.
As Ganier batted away a pass intended for Malcom Magee in the end zone on the final play to preserve a 28-20 victory, the Hawks players and coaches poured onto the field as if they had won the Super Bowl.
“I had a feeling the play was coming my way,” Ganier said. “I told myself, ‘not this time.’ We are not the same old Hancock. This is our time.”
Friday’s victory was Hancock’s first victory over the Greyhounds since 2003, but it was not only Ganier who helped facilitate it.
The Hawks (4-1, 1-0 Region 4-6A) dominated the second half to overcome a 20-7 halftime deficit. Three Hawks’ gained more than 100 yards rushing in a game.
“We knew we had to finish strong,” Hawks coach Neil Lollar said. “The first half was not who we were. We challenged them at halftime and they responded.”
The Greyhounds (2-3, 0-1) took advantage of some big plays to build its halftime lead.
Khallil Levy returned a punt 85 yards for the opening score of the game midway through the first stanza to open the scoring.
Early in the second quarter, Blake Noblin connected with Ryson Rivers for a 16-yard touchdown pass to push the Greyhound lead to 13-0.
Hancock responded with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Garcia to Brooks Rayburn with 5:43 to play in the first half. Elliot Nolan’s point-after cut the lead to 13-7.
Late in the first half, the Hawks were on the move again, but Levy intercepted a Garcia pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. The point-after gave Ocean Springs a 20-7 halftime lead.
The Hawks got a break to start the second half as a penalty on the kickoff gave them good field position at the 35. Three plays later, Garcia connected with Anthony Jones for 20 yards and a first down. It was the last time Hancock would attempt a throw in the game.
The Hawks’ went to a jumbo package and began chewing up yardage. Blake Comeaux capped the Hawks’ drive with a six-yard run and the extra-point cut the Greyhound’s advantage to 20-14.
After Hancock’s defense forced a punt, the Hawks’ marched 84 yards in 16 plays to take their first lead of the game.
Marquis Cherry carried the ball eight times for 58 yards on the drive which was capped by a one-yard plunge by Comeaux at the 8:48 mark of the fourth quarter. Cherry finished the game with 102 yards on 16 carries.
Hancock’s defense forced a punt on the Greyhounds next drive when Tyler Kapp sacked Noblin.
The Hawks’ took over at their 31 with 7:10 to play, and once again, they embarked on a long, time-consuming drive.
Cherry picked up a key fourth-and-one conversion with just over two minutes left. Rondell Womack dashed 16 yards for another first-down to the 14.
With Ocean Springs out of timeouts, the Hawks only needed to kneel on the ball to secure victory, but Comeaux took a handoff and went untouched into the end zone on the next play.The extra-point gave Hancock a 28-20, but it also gave Ocean Springs the ball back with just over a minute to play.
A good kickoff return by Kyle Ockman gave the Greyhounds a good start at the 47. Noblin connected with Magee for 17 yards and he then found Jones for 13 more and a first down at the 20.
A penalty on the Hawks moved the ball to the 11 with 33 seconds to play, but that is as close as the Greyhounds would get.
Hancock’s Trenton Ladner sacked Noblin on first down. Two incompletions set up one final play from the 16 with two seconds left. Ganier and Drake Necaise provided good coverage on the play and the ball fell to the ground as time expired.
“Thirteen years is long enough,” Necaise said. “We are a better team than last year.”
Comeaux paced the Hawks rushing attack with 126 yards on 22 carries. Womack added 118 yards on 17 carries.
“We are a second half team,” Hawks offensive lineman Devin Ladner said. “This is what we spent all the time in the weight room for. This what we prepared for.”
The Hawks will host St. Martin next week at Brett Favre Field. The Greyhounds travel to D’Iberville.