OCEAN SPRINGS — Bray Hubbard was close to perfect Friday, running for two touchdowns and throwing for a third to lead the fourth-ranked Greyhounds past previously unbeaten Hancock 45-21 in both team’s Region 4-6A opener Friday night.
The Ocean Springs win sets up another collision between Costal unbeatens on Oct. 1, as the Greyhounds make the short drive to D’Iberville (5-0), who dismantled Biloxi 34-14 Friday night.
David Humphries also had a nice night running the ball of the Greyhounds, gaining 116 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries as Ocean Springs took advantage of Hancock’s defensive schemes by running for 306 yards and passing for 149 yards while compiling 26 first downs.
With Hancock dropping deep in pass defense, Hubbard was forced to adjust to shorter passes to his receivers. Taking what the defense gave him, Hubbard was 19-of-22 for 149 yards including a 24-yard reception to Holton White late in the second quarter. He completed his first nine passes of the game and ended the game by hitting his last 7-of-8 passing attempts.
“They were not going to give us anything deep,” said Ocean Springs Blake Pennock, who noted that Hancock played the game with two safeties deep. He added that some quarterbacks could get impatient with the short passing game when defenses played to keep long passes at a minimum and make mistakes by trying to force the ball deep.
“But Bray’s game is next level,” Pennock said. “He really understands what we are trying to do offensively. He really executed the passing game.”
Hubbard also dominated Hancock with his legs, carrying the ball 19 times for 133 yards and scoring on runs of four and 45 yards. He also had a 78 yard scamper to open the second quarter that was called back due to a procedure penalty.
“I haven’t ran the ball that much in the first three games,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said the Hancock defense was slanting along the line of scrimmage. While this took away the normal Greyhound zone-blocking run game, it also opened up holes on the backside of the play. On his 45 yard run for a score, for instance, he said he noticed the Hawks defender slant away from the hole and was able to cut it back, break a few tackles and make it into the Hancock secondary.
Although Hancock was able to run a little bit early in the game behind Cameron Miller, they were not able to get their passing game going. Where Hubbard was completing most of his passes, Hawks quarterback Brandon King completed just three of his first 12 passes for 18 yards and had several passes dropped by his receivers.
“We got behind early,” said Hawks coach Neil Lollar. “We had too many dropped balls at key moments in the game and, on other passing plays, we didn’t read the right receiver.”
Still, Lollar said he was pleased with the effort his team gave, particularly after they got behind 28-0 with less than two minutes to play in the first half. Hancock would use the remaining time to punch the ball in for their first score on a 12 yard pass play from King to Miller to cut the Greyhounds lead to 28-7 at the half.
“They played hard,” he said of his team. “They battled to the end. But, you can’t have as many 3-and-outs as we did against a team as good as Ocean Springs.”
While the meeting between unbeatens in the region was important in Region 6-4A, both coaches noted it is very early in the season.
“There’s a lot ahead of us,” Lollar said. “We still have six region games left to play. We’ll go back to work on Monday.”
“We have another huge test next week,” Pennock said, noting there were six teams in the region that had playoff aspirations. “There are a lot of good athletes and good coaching on the Gulf Coast.”
Hubbard also noted the season was far from over for Ocean Springs. “The win puts us in a good spot,” he said, “but there are a lot of things we still have to work on. And, next week, we have another big challenge.”
Miller paced the Hawks with 49 yards rushing on 12 carries. He also caught a couple of passes for 19 yards and Hancock’s first score. He ran back Ocean Springs first kick of the second half for 60 yards to set up the Hawks second touchdown — a 1 yard plunge by Jeffrey Hopgood.
King continued to battle the Ocean Springs defense and finished with 96 yards on 7-of-21 passing. Dylan Moran closed out the game for Hancock and was 6-of-7 passing for 49 yards and a 4-yard scoring pass to Hopgood. Todd Dedeaux added five catches for 60 yards.
Christian White snagged nine passes to lead the Greyhounds in catches for 54 yards. Holton White added six catches for 83 yards. J.P. Coulter added a 9-yard scoring run to give Ocean Springs a 42-14 lead after three quarters and Bart Edmiston kicked a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to account for Ocean Springs’ final points.