BILOXI — Ocean Springs’ Ethan Hunt drilled a 32-yard field goal through the middle of the uprights as time expired as the Greyhounds rebounded from last week’s loss and beat Biloxi 31-29 in a key Region 4-6A match Thursday night.
For the Greyhounds (5-1, 2-1) the win keeps them one game behind Harrison Central and D’Iberville. The Warriors, who gave the Greyhounds their lone loss last week, meet Harrison Central on Nov. 6. The Hurricanes (5-0, 3-0) meet the No. 3 Warriors (5-0, 3-0) in a Halloween matchup Oct. 30.
“This win keeps us square in the region hunt,” said Ocean Springs coach Blake Pennock, who added it was a “deep region” and coming back after the loss was key to Ocean Springs remaining in the race.
Although Biloxi (2-3, 0-3) currently sits at the bottom of the region standings after playing Harrison Central, D’Iberville, and Ocean Springs, coach Katlan French said the Indians still have a lot of football left.
“We need to win out the rest of the year,” he said. “But we feel like if we can get on a roll we will be ok. We’ve had some tough issues with injuries and on the football field, but we are a good team.”
Hunt’s game-winning field goal came after a dramatic drive by Biloxi that put the Indians up 29-28 with just over 2 minutes left in the game. Behind Krisshun Kendrick, who broke loose for a 99-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put Biloxi up 14-0, the Indians took five plays to drive 80 yards, including 45 yards by Kendrick on three carries.
Kendrick ended the drive with a 19-yard scoring sprint, his third touchdown of the night, to bring Biloxi to within one, 28-27. French decided to go for the win and kept the offense on the field for the two-point play with Kendrick easily converting, walking into the end zone.
“We felt like their defense was struggling against us and our defense was getting gassed,” French said. “They really didn’t have any answers for us in the second half and I felt like we should try to win the game.”
Ocean Springs’ David Humphries, though, took the ensuing kickoff at his 15 and found a crease in the Biloxi return team and didn’t stop until he crossed the opposite end zone. But, a controversial block in the back penalty at the Indians’ 25-yard line erased the score and gave the Greyhounds the ball at the Indians’ 35. Ocean Springs ran the ball on the next five plays, but could only pick up one first down with Biloxi stopping them on the 15. Pennock called a timeout to get Hunt and his field goal unit on the field for a 32-yard attempt.
“He’s one of the best kickers in the state,” said Ocean Springs quarterback Jack King, making the start in place of Brae Hubbard, who was out with a knee injury. “There was no doubt in my mind. I was confident he could kick the field goal.”
Hunt said he knew the kick was good from the moment he connected with the football. “I missed my first attempt (a 52-yarder that had the distance, but was wide left at the end of the first half),” he said. “I was down a little bit and that made the second field goal all the sweeter.”
“Our defense made a stop,” French said, “which they had to do. But, they had a kicker who could kick the field goal.”
Although Hunt connected for the final points, it was King who brought the Greyhounds back. The senior quarterback, who moved behind center from wide receiver when Hubbard was injured, was 10-of-20 passing for 117 yards and a pick, tossing a 22-yard scoring pass to Torrian Kelly and a 29-yard touchdown strike to Holton White. He also ran for 101 yards on 18 carries, scoring on runs of 1 and 6 yards.
“We were definitely flat in the first quarter and had trouble getting anything moving offensively,” King said. “After halftime, we started understanding what the defense was trying to do and we were able to move the ball.”
King said the loss last week to D’Iberville had the Greyhounds down. “It felt great to come out here and win after the loss to D’Iberville. It was very motivating.”
White was King’s most frequent target catching five passes for 73 yards.
After a scoreless first quarter, Biloxi scored twice in the second frame to take a 14-0 lead with 7:45 left to go in the first half when, with the ball on the Indians’ 1, Kendrick took the ball in the end zone, found a hole in the left side of the Ocean Springs defense and outraced the Greyhounds’ secondary on a 99-yard sprint. Kendrick finished with 240 yards on 24 carries and three scores.
“He’s a great player,” said French of his running back. “He played his heart out. I wish the result would have been different because he did everything he could do get us the win.”
For Pennock, it was the second consecutive season that a back went over 200 yards on the Greyhounds. And Kendrick wasn’t the only back who had success against Ocean Springs as Indian backs gained 369 yards on the night.
“We’ve got to get that fixed,” Pennock said, saying injuries have resulted in a number of defensive players playing out of position resulting in small cracks in the defense that are turning into long runs for opposing backs.
Deljay Bailey also had a good night for Biloxi hitting 2-of-4 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown with Deon Hardin making both catches.