High School Sports

‘You spell fun w-i-n.’ State’s top passer and new coach have Pass Christian believing

After taking it on the chin a year ago as the injuries and bad luck piled up, the Pass Christian High School football team is suddenly a contender in Region 7-4A.

First-year head coach Blake Pennock and the state’s leading passer, senior quarterback Dustin Allison, have led the Pirates to a 5-2 overall mark and a 1-0 start in Region 8-4A after thumping previously undefeated Bay High 42-14 Friday night.

It’s all a stunning turnaround for a program that lost the final nine games of the 2018 season to finish 1-9.

“I’m having the best time of my life with this group of players I have on this team,” Allison said with a broad grin.

Allison completed nine of 16 passes for 204 yards, four touchdowns and ran for another score as Pass Christian overcame an early 7-0 deficit to take down the rival Tigers with ease.

Pennock didn’t hide back the emotion in his post-game speech.

“You spell fun w-i-n,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing – winning. We try to have fun. The biggest thing is the grind and the chase. We try to put that grind together so we can chase what we ultimately want and that’s a solid playoff spot for us to try to win a playoff game and make a run in the 4A playoffs. That’s something that hasn’t been done here in a really long time. We’re having a great time because of the way they’re performing.”

Nobody has embraced that grind more than Allison, who has been starting games at quarterback for Pass Christian since he was a freshman.

“You come in as a new coach and players are typically set in their ways and resistant,” Pennock said. “Not him, he has been hungry to be the absolute best quarterback that he can be. He’s a phenomenal student of the game. That allows us to do so much with him offensively. He comes in on a Sunday afternoon by himself with the coaching staff and gets our game plan just so he can understand what we’re thinking. That’s just a credit to him and his dedication to be the best he can be.”

Allison gave himself a chance to hold onto the state lead in passing Friday night, pushing his season numbers to 2,004 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior has always been known as a strong passer, but he credits his improved numbers to the play of those around him.

“It’s receivers getting open on routes and the offensive line has done the best they’ve ever did,” Allison said. “Everybody works hard.”

When Pennock first sat down his quarterback when he first arrived in Pass Christian, Allison had a hunch that things were about to change for the better with his uptempo spread offense.

“I couldn’t have been more excited,” Allison said. “It was just a blessing when he came here.”

However, it’s more than just than Pennock’s play-calling that’s made the difference.

“He’s intense all the time,” senior running back Huu Nguyen said. “He gets us on track and handles everything so well. He’s the leader. We’re just the followers.”

Nguyen is part of a solid group of skill players who have thrived around Allison. He broke free up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown run on the Pirates’ first snap from scrimmage and finished with five carries for 143 yards.

Allison spread the ball around to his receivers, connecting with Kameron White, Dylan Necaise, Xavion Page and Xavian Chamberlain for touchdown tosses against Bay High (5-1, 0-1)

“That’s what we try to be,” Pennock said. “We’re going to have some guys step up and be featured in the offense, but we want to have five guys being able to touch the ball at any one time, anywhere on the field. Our guys have been great.”

Pass Christian is also getting better play out of its defense by the week, holding the Bay High ground game in check and forcing four turnovers.

“We came out and did exactly what we planned to do, keep them off the field and go on a long drive,” Bay High coach Eric Collins said. “That’s been our offense. But if you turn the ball over that many times, you’re not going to win anything.”

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.