The Moss Point football team limped into last year's contest against Harrison Central with an 0-2 record and managed to turn its season around with a 31-12 win at Dantzler Stadium.
On Friday night against the Red Rebels, Moss Point walks in standing tall with a 2-0 record and a No. 5 ranking in the Sun Herald Top 10.
A year removed from last year's game, Moss Point coach Willie Brown looks back to the 2015 Harrison Central contest as a significant turning point for his program.
“I just remember we were able to get some confidence,” the third-year coach said. “To beat a 6A school, it put us on a little bit of a road.”
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The Tigers went on to a 7-6 season that included a pair playoff victories.
Moss Point has seen a resurgence under Brown, who is in his third year. After going 1-5 start to Brown's first season in 2014, the Tigers are 12-8 since. They also ended a five-game skid against their biggest rival, Pascagoula, with an 18-13 win in the season opener.
Brown admits he's recently noticed a new vibe while walking the hallways at Moss Point, which is a traditional football power with five state championships.
“There's been a change I think with the new administration,” Brown said. “They're holding kids accountable. I guess when you can win a football game, that doesn't hurt the process. We try to hold our kids accountable on the field and off the field. It's a partnership.”
Moss Point has a shot at another statement victory Friday against Harrison Central, which is 1-0 and ranked No. 6 by the Sun Herald. The two teams will face off at 7 p.m. in Lyman.
The Red Rebels also have an unblemished record at 1-0 after jumping out to a 26-0 lead after one quarter last week at McComb before holding on for a 53-40 victory.
In Moss Point, Harrison Central coach Casey Cain again sees a challenge.
“Oh man, they're really good,” Cain said. “They've got an excellent quarterback, a really good receiver and two fine running backs. Defensively, they fly around and get to the football. They're by far the best team we've played to this point.”
Harrison Central will offer the most potent offense Moss Point has played this season. Senior quarterback Tavis Williams rushed 17 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns last week and junior running back Keon Moore ran 24 times for 187 yards and one score. Williams holds offers from South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Miss. Moore has an offer from Texas-San Antonio.
Cain believes his offensive line played a large role in helping the Red Rebels put up 390 yards rushing on the ground last week at McComb.
“We really only have two starters back,” Cain said. “I felt like as, as a group, the offensive line played the best of any group on the team for the first game. I'm really proud of those guys. They did exceptional.”
The biggest concern for Cain is cleaning up on defense after allowing 40 points to Class 4A McComb.
“We've got to make our most improvement defensively as far as tackling,” he said.
Harrison Central will have to find a way to slow down a much more diverse Moss Point offense this season after the Tigers relied primarily on the ground game the last two years. Senior quarterback Romello Leggins has thrown for 222 yards and three touchdowns while senior running back Omni Wells is the Coast's third leading rusher with 53 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
“Moss Point is always going to be a challenge,” Cain said. “They're always loaded with athletes. We've got to be able to tackle well. We can't afford to give up the big play.”
Who: Moss Point vs. Harrison Central
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Where: Harrison Central