Countdown To Kickoff: Ocean Springs
OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Blake Pennock’s first season at Ocean Springs ended with nine wins and a playoff berth, a success by any measure. Their only three losses came by a combined 13 points.
This year’s Greyhounds squad remembers how close to they were in those games, keeping them hungry to - in Pennock’s words - go from good to great.
“It’s the little things that take you to a great team,” Pennock said. “Those are hard to get to, those last couple of points are difficult to get. They were against good teams. To make that difference up, you have to do a little bit extra and do the small things right.”
“It bugs me every day. We were right there,” senior safety Avery Carter said. “It irritates you. It’s definitely going to push us a long way this year.”
Coming back for his second year as starting quarterback is Bray Hubbard, who threw and rushed for over 1,000 yards each last season as a sophomore, and has made great strides in his first full off-season under Pennock and his staff.
“He’s made a tremendous commitment to his pass game, reading the defense, learning what’s going on when we call plays, and why we do the things we do with our offense,” Pennock said. “It’s made him tremendous. He’s throwing the ball with a tremendous amount of confidence and he’s playing with receivers who have confidence in him. It’s taken him a long way. He has to do it under the lights, but so far, so good.”
But Hubbard isn’t alone. All five of last year’s starting offensive linemen are back, along with 800-yard rusher David Humphires.
“It’s great having returners, especially on the offensive line, because they know what’s going on,” Hubbard said. “They know how David and I are in the backfield together. They get the presence of how we work together as a team, and they know all the plays so they can put their own touches to it if they need.”
The defensive side of the ball returns at least a starter at every level, with hopes of replicating last year’s unit that surrendered just over two touchdowns a game, and held four opponents to ten points or fewer.
“I feel like it can be the same as last year, maybe even better,” Carter said. “With the talent we have, all the young kids, with how athletic we are. The other safety, Will Gray, amazing athlete. Trace Carter, athletic as all get out. I feel like we could really do something with our defense this year.”
Despite all the difficulties presented in 2020, the Greyhounds turned a lot of heads in the first year with a new coaching staff. Twelve months later, they’re ready to turn a few more.
“This whole full year with coach Pennock in line all summer, we got some plays we didn’t get to put into the playbook last year,” Hubbard said. “Some of the plays have changed our whole offense tremendously.”
“Accountability. Accountability to themselves, being able to execute the plan, doing what we do, being mentally prepared, controlling the controllables,” Pennock said when asked about what his team’s focus is entering week one. “Effort, attitude and toughness. If we can do that, we have enough talent to do some things. If you can do a few of those things, I think some of the other stuff will take care of itself.”
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