It was sloppy and penalty-laden at times, but the final score still looked good to the fans in the East Central bleachers.
The Hornets improved to 5-0 by picking up a 56-12 win over Moss Point to begin Region 8-4A play Friday night.
East Central senior running back Tony Brown had likely his best game of the season, running 15 times for 258 yards and three touchdowns to help the Hornets pull away in the second half.
Brown eclipsed the 1,000-yard for the season and pushed his touchdown total to 10 with scoring runs of 86, 8 and 55 yards.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
"It felt really great," Brown said. "The long runs always give a running back confidence. To just keep doing it over and over again was really awesome."
East Central was called for numerous penalties in the first half, but still held a 14-0 lead at halftime as junior Ryan Evans and Brown found the end zone on long touchdown runs.
Smith admitted that he had to let his team know his displeasure at the half.
"I had to rip 'em, get on 'em a little bit," he said. "The first half was embarrassing. We didn't execute great offensively. Our defense played phenomenal, gave up zero points. Our offense gave them 12 points. We just had to challenge them a little bit. It was clear we were a little bit rusty, but we came out the second half and played the way we're capable of."
Moss Point scored two touchdowns in the game and both were on defense. Justin Logan picked up a loose ball and went 2 yards for a touchdown to cut the East Central lead to 14-6 with 8:48 left in the third quarter. Jacolbian Franklin also picked up a fumble and ran 95 yards for the touchdown to make it 35-12 with 10:49 left.
Aside from Moss Point turning two turnovers into scores, East Central owned the final two quarters.
The biggest pass play of the game was a 51-yarder from East Central senior quarterback Rylee Brown to fellow senior Brad Cumbest, putting the game to rest at 35-6 with 1:27 left in the third quarter..
Three other East Central running backs had touchdowns with Louis Morgan contributing an 8-yard score, Cameron Gray running 10 yards to the end zone and sophomore Dylan Grinsteinner providing a late 1-yard touchdown.
After sputtering at times on the offensive side of the ball in the first half, Smith was much happier with what he saw out of his group in the final two quarters.
"I thought our effort was better," Smith said. "Everything we do is effort driven – effort and attitude. I thought in the second half our effort helped us take over the game."
Evans was the second leading rusher for East Central Friday night with eight carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
East Central will travel to Pass Christian this Friday for the second game of the region slate. The Pirates have won four consecutive games after beating Bay High 34-28 on Friday.
Moss Point (1-6, 0-1) will travel to Vancleave this week.