Friday night’s jamboree contest gave Biloxi football fans a brief glimpse of what to expect in Katlan French’s first season as the Indians’ head coach, and it may have provided some promising signs.
Biloxi used a stifling defense and a steady ground game to topple Long Beach 14-6 Friday night in two quarters of scrimmage action.
“I was really happy about it,” French said. “As a defensive coordinator, you really appreciate it when the offense is on the field the entire game. In years past, I feel like our defense has been on the field a lot. Our offensive line dominated and kept us on the field. I’m real excited about where we are. We’ve got to work on some things like holding onto the football, but that’s the only downside.”
Biloxi, which turned the ball over once on Friday, should compete with some of the better teams in Region 4-6A if it can limit the mistakes on offense.
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“It’s being smart with the ball,” French said. “I think we have a good enough defense where if we don’t turn the ball over we’ll have a chance every week.”
Biloxi kept the ball on the ground for much of the game, relying heavily on senior running back Alizha Syas, a 5-foot-5, 150-pound transfer from Oklahoma.
He carried the ball 15 times for 85 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown run.
“They said I was a big surprise this summer,” Syas said. “I just came in here and did what I could.”
French is hopeful that Syas will provide tough yards between the tackles all season.
“He’s a big boost,” French said. “The best thing about him is he’s such a team guy. His favorite position is not even running back. If it was up to him, he’d be playing defensive back. He’s a hard-nosed runner, extremely tough. You can tell he’s an extremely well-raised kid. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Six-foot-2 junior Cincere Jupiter received the start at quarterback for the Indians and completed 7-of-9 passes for 109 yards.
“One thing he’s really good at is he’s a big-time game manager,” French said of Jupiter. “He knows how to keep us on the right page, a big-time leader in the huddle. He gets us lined up, calls the play. He’s smart. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He keeps his eyes down field. He knows he’s got a lot of play-makers around him. He’s a big-time distributor, very unselfish person.”
French is upbeat about his squad headed into the Aug. 17 Shrimp Bowl, which features St. Stanislaus as the opponent.
“We’ve got tough kids and they battle adversity really well,” he said. “We put them in tough situations in the offseason and they’ve pulled through. They know how to overcome. They’ve got a lot of confidence in each other. They’re a tight group, so fun to coach. At the end of the day, I need to make sure I never doubt them. They’re some tough kids for sure.”
Biloxi’s second touchdown of the game came from sophomore Tajsman Lanier on a 1-yard run late in the second quarter.
Going the distance
The only points for Long Beach Friday came from its defense when sophomore defensive back D’lijah Robinson picked up a fumble near the goal line and sprinted 100 yards with a convoy of teammates to give the Bearcats a 6-0 lead at the 4:11 mark of the first quarter.
The Bearcats were short-handed on offense Friday with two members of the Sun Herald Preseason All-South Mississippi Team not on the field. Junior quarterback Cade Crosby was on the West Coast playing baseball and senior running back Dennis Andrews is still recovering from summer knee surgery.
Andrews, who ran for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, is expected to return for the start of region play on Sept. 21 against Pearl River Central.
Long Beach was also playing without a pair of starters on the offensive line.
“They fought hard,” first-year Long Beach coach Philip Pigott said about his team. “I thought Biloxi came out playing their tails off. They’re a great football team executing at a high level. I felt like our guys came out and matched their intensity. We’ve got to play harder for longer.”
Long Beach will have an early start on the regular season when it hosts Pass Christian at 7 p.m. on Aug. 16.
“We had some young guys who are forced into action,” Pigott said. “We have two freshmen that are on the field on defense and several sophomores out there. It was encouraging to see them own the moment.”
Other jamboree results
D’Iberville 14, East Central 10: Marquis Whitley took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a D’Iberville touchdown and that provided the spark for the Warriors to come out on top in Hurley.
East Central’s points came on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Will Young to Cameron Gray and a 24-yard field goal from Branson Davis.
Junior quarterback Jaden Walley provided the decisive score in the scrimmage on an 12-yard touchdown run.
Gulfport jamboree: St. Stanislaus and Gulfport conducted a controlled scrimmage on Friday at Milner Stadium. Gulfport scored five times and the Rockachaws managed one touchdown.
Hancock 14, Bay High 14: Caleb Garcia threw a pair of touchdown passes for Hancock, a 44-yarder to Blake Comeaux and a 61-yarder to Brooks Rayburn.
Garcia completed 10 of 15 passes for 162 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Bay High sophomore quarterback Sema’j Robertson had two touchdown runs of 1 and 19 yards. He ran eight times for 42 yards and had 64 yards passing.
Jefferson Davis County 14, Poplarville 7: Poplarville’s lone score came on a kickoff return for a touchdown by Canaan Ray.
Other scores — Harrison Central 27, Forrest County AHS 6; Wayne County 27, Pascagoula 14; West Jones 9, George County 3; Vancleave 18, Gautier 16.