LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - It can’t be overstated that the Long Beach Bearcats haven’t had much success on the football field, but 2019 was a season they’d like to forget. The Bearcats lone victory came in week three against West Harrison. From there, they lost their remaining eight games, ending the season 1-10, the program’s lowest win total since 2013.
“We didn’t have the motivation,” senior safety JR McFarland told WLOX. “We weren’t real confident in ourselves and stuff.”
“Failed execution and we didn’t trust each other on certain plays,” junior tight end Avery Berry said. “Messing up on little things.”
Unlike past years, there is finally optimism with a new vision in place. Ryan Ross takes over Long Beach after nine seasons at Ocean Springs, where he led the Greyhounds to the playoffs six times. With the Bearcats playoff drought ongoing since 2011, Ross says he’s ready for the challenge.
“We know that Hattiesburg’s got great players and Picayune, I mean it’s a tough conference. These guys they’ve got a big challenge ahead of them before they even kick it off, so we’ve got to try to match they’re mental toughness and be physical,” Ross told WLOX.
“Give us a chance to be in the ball game late in the fourth quarter. That’s all we can ask for, a chance to win late and you know we’ll see what happens.”
With scrimmages starting in nine days, the Bearcats have to pick up the tempo in learning Ross’s style of play, especially the quarterbacks. A starter hasn’t been named, but Ross knows what he’s looking for.
“I’m looking for that guy that’s going to take care of the football, understand the situations we’re in at each down,” Ross said. “Not put us in bad situations, not have negative plays, and not turn the ball over.”
In his first year as a starter, Guice Tripp did just that, throwing 12 touchdowns to just six interceptions and believes he has all the tools to get the job done.
“Everyone believes in me, you know? All my teammates, offensive line especially,” Tripp said. “They just like me. I can give the ball to anybody, anywhere anytime.”
Whoever is awarded the job, they will look to D’lijah Robinson to be their main target. The senior is a two-way athlete who accounted for 44 percent of the Bearcats scoring last season. Robinson led the team with 643 all purpose yards playing wide receiver, running back, quarterback and also spent time on defense at corner.
“Honestly they plan on using me anywhere that the ball can touch my hands,” D’lijah Robinson told WLOX.
No matter where he is on the field, there’s one thing that Robinson as well as the rest of team, want more than anything.
“Wins, all across the board. Teams that we lost to last year beat them this year. I mean Coach Ross brought a lot of heart. He made us one team, one heartbeat,” Robinson said.
“We might lose some, we might win some, but at the end of the season we all know we all went out hard as we could.”
The last time the Bearcats had a winning season came in 2017 when they went 6-5. Senior safety JR McFarland told WLOX Wednesday to get ready to witness a new and improved football team this fall. The players have bought in to Coach Ross and say that the program is a lot more fun because it’s easier to understand the playbook.
Long Beach will travel to West Harrison to kickoff the season September 4 at 7 p.m.