In a smash mouth contest that featured numerous brutal collisions, it was the Ocean Springs football team that walked away with a crucial Region 4-6A victory Friday night at newly-renovated Greyhound Stadium.
Ocean Springs (3-4, 2-1) boosted its playoff pursuit with a 14-0 take down of Biloxi (5-2, 1-2) behind a strong defensive effort and a turnover-free game on offense.
“I think it keeps our hopes alive,” Ocean Springs senior quarterback Blake Noblin said. “We’re 2-1. It keeps us there. We’re in the hunt still.”
The Greyhounds will look to move to 3-1 in region play when they travel next to West Harrison, which dropped to 1-6 and 0-3 in a 42-7 loss at D’Iberville last week.
With a couple of Greyhound running backs hobbled early in the game, it was up to Jakari Smith to grind out the difficult yardage on the ground. The 6-foot-1 185-pound senior ran 25 times for what had to be the toughest 64 yards of his life, including a 1-yard touchdown run with 30.1 seconds left in the first quarter for the first score of the game.
“Jakari, he showed a lot of guts tonight,” Ocean Springs coach Ryan Ross said. “There was some contact out there, now. They were smoking him. It’s a very physical defense that Biloxi has got. Their linebackers are hard-nosed players and their front is very, very good. We couldn’t hardly block them.
“(Smith) took a bunch of blunt blows right there at the line of scrimmage. Not having that rotation with those two other guys with different strengths to help us get to the perimeter, Jakari stepped up. He’s almost the team hero tonight.”
Noblin may have best summed up Smith’s showing.
“Jakari is a machine. We had two guys down, and he did it,” he said.
Noblin also proved steady for the Greyhounds, completing nine of 13 passes for 113 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown toss to Brady Brune with just under 4 minutes left in the first half.
He didn’t go to the air all that much, but Noblin was on the money when he did.
It was a badly needed turnaround for Noblin, who completed just three of 15 attempts for 39 yards with three interceptions in the 28-14 defeat to D’Iberville the week prior.
“The first quarter was pretty big for me just to regain some confidence and get things back rolling again,” he said.
Noblin holds a scholarship offer from Southern Miss and is also hearing a lot from Kansas out of the Big 12.
The Ocean Springs defense held Biloxi to 151 yards of offense with junior quarterback Chad O’Neal accounting for 143 — 67 passing and 76 rushing.
Biloxi had its most success on the quarterback draw, but O’Neal was never quite capable of taking off for a big gainer. Biloxi tried to go to the air late to overcome the two-touchdown deficit, but O’Neal only completed seven of 17 passes in the game.
The Ocean Springs defense matched Biloxi’s physical play blow by blow and came up with several clutch moments, including a stop on a fake punt try and a sack of O’Neal by junior defensive end Dylan Robinson to put the Indians in 4th-and-20 situation — all in the fourth quarter.
“Our linebackers filled the gaps well and the D-line held them,” Ocean Springs senior linebacker Grant Watson said. “We executed on defense super well. Our game plan was to go out and hit them in the mouth. They’re a little bit bigger than us so we were going to try to beat them with speed. We hit them first and got ‘em from the go.”
Biloxi’s playoff chances took a hit as they next prepare to make a second consecutive road trip to St. Martin, which improved to 6-1 and 2-1 with a 27-0 win over Harrison Central on Friday.