Blake Noblin scrambled to his right to avoid an unblocked defensive lineman and found the receiver in the end zone who he has come to rely on more with each week.
The Ocean Springs junior quarterback hit senior Khalil Levy in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown with 2.7 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the St. Martin halftime lead to 13-7 and provide the spark that the Greyhounds so badly needed.
Ocean Springs (6-3, 4-1) used that momentum to pick up a crucial Region 4-6A victory at rival St. Martin, 28-19, on Friday night.
Up to the point of the Greyhounds’ first score, St. Martin (5-4, 2-3) had dominated the contest on both sides of the ball. Noblin completed just one of his first six passes before hitting sophomore Jason Brooks on a 26-yard gain on the first half’s final drive to set up the scoring toss to the 5-foot-9, 145-pound Levy.
“I think that got everybody up in stands, the whole sideline,” Noblin said. “That just gave us hope.”
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Noblin recovered to completed six of 14 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns — both to Levy.
Levy caught three passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He also helped close out the victory with a late interception.
“He’s a great kickoff, punt return guy, but people won’t kick to him anymore,” Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross said of Levy. “When people do that, they get burned. We put him on defense and he makes a play. He’s a good football player and I’m glad he’s on our team. Even though he’s a little guy, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Levy’s one reception that wasn’t a touchdown may have been his best of the game – a 45-yarder that set up Micah Kelly’s 3-yard touchdown run at the 1:26 mark of the third quarter to give the Greyhounds a 21-19 lead. On the catch, Levy had to fight the St. Martin defensive back for the ball as the two players worked their way to the sideline.
“Blake came to the sideline and said run an X-go,” Levy said. “I saw the ball go up, I wanted it. I wasn’t going to let it go.”
Even though Levy has pulled in almost everything thrown his way this season, even Noblin was surprised to see him come up with the ball.
“I have no clue where that came from. That was incredible,” Noblin said.
Noblin’s other touchdown toss was a 58-yarder that hit Levy on the run to give Ocean Springs its first lead of the game at 14-13 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
“It’s reassuring seeing (Levy) running down the field, knowing you can throw to him,” Noblin said “I have a lot of trust in him.”
St. Martin immediately answered with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Elijah Washington, but that was the final score of the night for St. Martin.
Ocean Springs got the insurance score it needed when Isaac Gowdy recovered a St. Martin fumble and ran 38 yards for the touchdown to set the score at 28-19 with 11:52 remaining.
Ocean Springs took advantage of every St. Martin miscue in the final two quarters after having little go its way in the first half.
Gulfport (8-1, 5-0) is in first place in Region 4-6A with Ocean Springs and Harrison Central (7-2, 4-1) tied for second. D’Iberville (5-3, 3-2) is in fourth place. The Greyhounds are in good shape for a playoff bid with wins already in the bank over fifth-place teams St. Martin and Biloxi (4-5, 2-3).
The Greyhounds’ chances are helped by the continued maturation of Noblin at quarterback. They had a bumpy start to the season in losses to Gautier and Madison Central, but the offense has shown significant improvement around Noblin in recent weeks.
“Physically, he’s stronger,” Ross said. “We changed the offense to where it’s more centered around him making plays and play-faking our run game. If we get our run game going, we’re a good football team. St. Martin did a great job tonight.”
St. Martin senior running back Ham McGee led all rushers with 20 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown.