Hancock High School beat Ocean Springs for the first time since 2003 on Friday.
Over the last couple of years, the Hawks had appeared to be in the driver’s seat against St. Martin only to fall in excruciating fashion. The roles were reversed a bit Friday as Hancock, led by first-year coach Neil Lollar, had to rally late to pull off the 28-20 win.
The win parlays into a rather large question: Can No. 6 Hancock (4-1, 1-0) do it again and get a rare win against No. 8 St. Martin (3-2, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday?
A victory against the Yellow Jackets has been almost equally as rare, with SMHS convincingly winning every matchup between 2011 and ’16. The last time the Hawks defeated St. Martin was way back in 2002 — in large part because the teams stopped playing between 2003 and 2010.
“They have hung points on us for the four years,” Lollar said before Tuesday’s practice. “St. Martin knows they can beat us. That’s in their head — and rightfully so because they have done so for years.”
With St. Martin’s offense boasting as much firepower as anyone on the Coast and the Hawks coming off heartbreaking defeats against OSHS, the barrier for the last couple of years was as much mental as it was physical. It was a difficult combination to overcome. But now?
“They’re very strong mentally, but just like with any team, as long as there’s momentum going the right way you’re good,” Lollar said. “There’s always the possibility of having a setback, but they at least know we can win in district. ... That’s a big thing for us in our state.”
Although standouts like Wayne Overman III and Kalem Reddix are gone, Lollar knows better than to discount the Yellow Jackets.
“They’re big. They have D1 guys on both sides of the ball. There’s a reason colleges are in there looking,” he said.
The Hawks are going to have to “control the controllables,” Lollar said.
“That means no turnovers and not putting us in bad situations,” he said. “We have to minimize their opportunities but we also have to execute and hopefully expand on our opportunities.”
The Hawks have done a good job of blending their attack. Caleb Garcia has emerged as one of the Coast’s top passers, completing 57.7 percent of his passes for 811 yards and five touchdowns. Brooks Rayburn and Marquis Cherry have been go-to receivers, combining for 24 receptions, 532 yards and all five scores. But the Hawks have also been able to establish the run. Blake Comeaux leads HHS with 561 yards and 10 touchdowns, but both Rondell Womack (382 yards) and Cherry (301) have been more than solid in relief.
“We’re kind of a ground and pound but we can throw it around, too,” Lollar said. “That’s the luxury we have with our offense.”
Scouting St. Martin
Ham McGee sets the tone for the Yellow Jackets. The junior has rushed for 463 and four scores. Mileon Graham, who SMHS has moved around on offense, is second on the team with 345 yards and three touchdowns. Graham is also St. Martin’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets have combined for 15 sacks as a team and have forced five interceptions. Keni Williams leads the team with 46 total tackles.
Heading into Friday’s game, Hancock is tied with Gulfport (2-3, 1-0), Biloxi (1-4, 1-0) and Harrison Central (2-3, 1-0) atop the Region 4-6A standings, with D’Iberville (1-4, 0-1), OSHS (2-3, 0-1), Pascagoula (2-3, 0-1) and SMHS rounding out the group.
If last Friday’s results foreshadowed anything, it’s that 2017 is likely to be a topsy-turvy season for the Coast’s 6A contingent.
“I think we’re all fairly equal. It’s going to be a week-to-week situation. We all present each other with a slightly different problem,” Lollar said.
“You have to fight every week and I think it’s going to be that way for the next six weeks. I truly do.”
Who: St. Martin at Hancock
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Online: LIVE scoreboard updates from all the Coast’s games at SunHerald.com.