FLOWOOD — It wasn’t pretty, but Northwest Rankin coach Toby Collums will take it.
Behind a strong rushing attack and a second half defensive stand, the Cougars rallied past Ocean Springs 17-14 in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A football playoffs at Cougar Field on Friday night.
The Cougars (8-3) will travel to D’Iberville next Friday night in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“I think we did a great job running the ball, but couldn’t finish drives and the defense did a great job of getting off the field,” said Northwest Rankin coach Toby Collums. “Hats off to Ocean Springs, they did a heckuva job and their quarterback is an outstanding athlete.”
After a bad snap on a Northwest Rankin punt, Ocean Springs scored first on a 7-yard run from David Humphries to give the Greyhounds a 7-0 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
Northwest Rankin got on the board on a 30-yard field goal by Christian Baglione to cut the Ocean Springs lead to 7-3 with 10:30 left in the second quarter.
The Cougars took their first lead, 10-7, on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Parten to Jordan Cavitt with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter.
After Ocean Springs’ Keyshawn Johnson blocked a punt, the Greyhounds retook the lead at 14-10 on 3-yard run by Humphries.
On Northwest Rankin’s ensuing drive, the Cougars went 65 yards on 13 plays and scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run from Davion Alston that put them ahead 17-14 with 1:14 left in the game.
The Cougar defense sacked Ocean Springs quarterback Bray Hubbard at the Northwest Rankin 30-yard line on the final play of the game to win it.
The Cougars’ bell-cow back Cam Marion finished the night with 169 yards rushing on 29 carries to lead the Cougar offense.
“I don’t think we played very clean — especially offensively — with three bad snaps and then a blocked punt on special teams,” Collums said. “Those things cannot happen and (us) expect to win, but we survived this one against a really good team.”
Humphries finished the night with 86 yards rushing with two touchdowns to lead Ocean Springs. Hubbard had 95 yards passing and 71 yards rushing for the Greyhounds (9-3).
“This is a tough one to swallow and we did some things uncharacteristically,” said Ocean Springs coach Blake Pennock. “When you get to this part of the season, there’s plays you’ve got to make to move on, and we didn’t make them.”
— Brandon Shields