High School Sports

‘It’s like getting ready to play Bama.’ East Central eyes Picayune after dominant W

Ever since the Mississippi High School Activities Association announced the reclassification lineup for 2019 season, East Central football Seth Smith knew his team was on a collision course with Picayune — the team coached by Dodd Lee, who happens to be his father-in-law.

East Central (3-1) and Picayune (4-0) will play at 7 p.m. in Hurley on Sept. 27 in a game that will open Region 4-5A play for both squads.

It’s not a game that Smith or the rest of his family have been looking forward to.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “You like competing, but it’s different when it’s someone you’ve known your whole life. Dodd Lee is my father-in-law and and the defensive coordinator (Ty Trahan) is my first cousin. At this point, every time you turn around you’re battling against someone you know and love. We’ve got to try hard see what happens.”

While Smith may not be overjoyed with the idea of competing against his kids’ grandfather, he has to feel good knowing that his offense is likely playing its best since the Hornets reached the Class 4A state title game in 2017.

The Hornets piled up of 615 yards offense with senior running back Dylan Grinsteinner running 20 times for a career high of 259 yards, three touchdowns and three 3-point conversions in a 70-35 victory over Moss Point Friday night.

Senior quarterback Will Young added 12 carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns. The other senior running back, Teshun McGee, had 10 carries for 149 yards and three scores.

If those three players are easily clearing 100 yards each week in region play, the Hornets have a good shot at rolling to a playoff bid.

“If that happens, you go into the fourth quarter with a chance,” Smith said.

After falling 21-14 to Harrison Central in the season opener, the Hornets have averaged 61 points over the last three games.

“We’ve definitely improved each week, gotten better. It’s been fun,” Young said. “Coach has been pushing us. The first week, we were beating ourselves with holding calls. Each week, we’ve not gotten as many flags.”

The Hornets overcame a somewhat sloppy first half that featured several holding calls on offense. Smith knows his team can’t afford more of the same against a Maroon Tide team that is averaging 53 points a contest after winning 53-15 at Poplarville Friday night.

“We’ll have to play near perfect,” Smith said. “It’s like getting ready to play Alabama. Coach Lee is the Coach (Nick) Saban of high school football and their team is Alabama. We’re going to have to play phenomenal to have a chance. They’re the best team in any classification. We know that. We’ll try hard and see what happens.”

East Central had much of its success on Friday with runs between the guard and tackle, consistently hitting for gainers of 15 yards or more.

“(The C-gap) was wide open,” Grinsteinner said. “When we played them last year, (the Moss Point defense) did a great job. This year, we watched the film and corrected the mistakes. It was wide open and that’s a credit to the guys up front.”

East Central was forced to keep up the pace on offense by Moss Point Friday night. Tigers senior running back Dominick Dees, who had 11 carries for 149 yards and two scores, ran 38 yards for a touchdown with 6:59 left in the third quarter to cut the Hornets’ lead to 35-29.

Grinsteinner responded with a 14-yard touchdown run at the 5:12 mark of the third quarter to make it 43-29 and the Hornets maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Moss Point junior quarterback Ruben Lee completed 12 of 22 passes for 184 yards. He connected on three touchdown tosses – all to fellow junior Chanton Millender.

“Their quarterback, I hope he’s as good as anybody we’ll play,” Smith said. “Credit to (Moss Point coach Eugene Harmon) and his guys. His guys can throw and catch. We’ve got to do a better job covering defensively. We’ll work on it and get better.”

Moss Point (0-4) will next host Lakeshore of Mandeville, Louisiana, on Sept. 27.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.