It took a few games for Harrison Central to find its stride, but after a tough start, the Red Rebels seem to have found a winning formula.
Friday will be the team's toughest test yet under first-year coach Casey Cain when they travel to St. Martin to face the explosive 6-1 Yellow Jackets.
Like their counterparts, the Red Rebels (3-4, 2-0 Region 4-6A) have been playing well of late. Cain attributes the team's 0-3 start in part to the players and coaches getting accustomed to one another. It also helps that HCHS has severely cut down on its 12 turnovers through the first three contests, aiding to a 3-1 run heading into Friday.
"I feel like they're understanding what we're trying to do," he said. "It's sinking in."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
A big reason for the team's wins over Pearl River Central, George County and Biloxi has been the maturation of quarterback Tavis Williams.
Through seven games, Williams has thrown for 818 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for another 359 yards and two touchdowns.
"He has improved every week," Cain said. "Just like I told everyone early on, the bottom line is if Tavis is having a good night, we tend to have a good night. Every game, every rep, every practice it gets better."
HCHS has also flipped its offensive philosophy. After operating heavily out of the spread early in the year, Cain estimated that they're running about 70 percent of their plays from under center now.
And the success has followed. HCHS has three running backs with more than 200 yards on the year.
"In any offense you try to run it's all a process," Cain said. "I think we needed four or five weeks to figure out or identity and right now our identity is running the football."
The shifty Keon Moore has 647 yards and six touchdowns to lead the team, while larger senior backs Walter Carter and Ronald Garvin have combined for 529 yards and seven scores.
"(Carter) is more of a power running back," Cain said. "He's a downhill runner who really loves contact and is a contact type kid."
As for St. Martin (6-1, 1-1), the Yellow Jackets bounced back from a 28-10 loss at Gulfport in the region opener by pouncing on Hancock last week 63-20.
"For whatever reason games get out of hand," said St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead, who was recently selected as an assistant for the Bernard Blackwell Classic in December. "We're not that much better than Hancock, things just happened on Friday and rolled our way."
With Ocean Springs, Gulfport and HCHS already boasting 2-0 records, Whitehead called Friday a "must win" for his 1-1 club.
"I feel like it is, anyway," he said.
The Jackets certainly have the weapons. Tyler Polk is sixth in on the Coast with 746 rushing yards, 10th in passing with 585 yards and has 12 receptions for 190 yards. He's also the Coast's third-leading scorer with 72 points. But he's not alone. Wayne Overman III has passed for 1,114 yards and rushed for 541 yards, while Kalem Reddix is second on the Coast with 599 receiving yards and 32 catches, good enough for fourth.
"They have the type of players who can score at any moment, so we just have to tackle well," Cain said. "Their guys are good in space so you have to be able to break down and wrap up. You're not going to lay the big hit on a lot of these guys, they're too shifty for that."