Last year, the Ocean Springs football program was a hot topic on the national scene, thanks to Homecoming Queen turned overtime hero turned overnight viral sensation Kaylee Foster.
But the Greyhounds weren’t just a good story, they were actually good.
Now they’re stop 17 on News 25’s “25 Teams in 25 Days” ready to take on 2019 from the other sideline.
Middle linebacker Mitchell Bowie said, “Yeah. I mean two years ago, 4-7 obviously was not what we were looking for. And then this previous year, we turned it around and hosted a playoff game against the reigning state champions. And we’re just looking for an even better season this year.”
Following a two-year postseason absence, Ocean Springs was every bit the contender in 2018 posting an overall mark of 7-5 to go along with that first home playoff game since 2014. “Going to the playoffs for the first time in two years, I mean that was awesome. It’s definitely just a change of pace, it felt way better.”
The Greyhounds really took off in their last non-district game of the season against George County. Already dubbed Homecoming Queen earlier in the night, then senior kicker Kaylee Foster shed her high heels for some cleats and buried the game-winning extra point in overtime. “I mean it felt like the game lasted four hours. It was just back and forth, back and forth. And then finally Kaylee kicked the winning extra point and I was like wait, was that Kaylee? And then it was like oh my God. And then we all just rushed the field and it was just the best feeling ever.”
All of a sudden, Kaylee was the talk of the internet, even appearing on a national talk show. As it turns out, that instant celebrity might have done more for the team than it did for her. Head football Coach Ryan Ross said, “Well, honestly, that really made us come together. Sometimes you need stuff like that in a football team. And you’re unknown, especially first half of the year. You’re unknown, what kind of team chemistry and how are you going to gel until you get put in situations that way? That was a remarkably positive event that happened and it just seemed to – we just took it and ran with it and it kind of snow balled from there and we started believing that we could beat anybody and it just brought us closer, so I was very pleased.”
Quarterback Blake Noblin said, “It’s almost like that’s still lingering around. But yeah, I mean that was definitely probably like the highlight of our team last year, but there was so much more than just that story.”
That story culminated with a loss to Pearl in the first round of the 6A playoffs despite a banner season from Micah Kelly who rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior before landing at the University of Toledo.
This year, the big story has everything to do with home field advantage and the newly renovated Ocean Springs grandstand, serving as the team’s home sideline starting in 2019. “I think for teams coming here to play it’s going to be just a little bit more intimidating to see this stadium in the back, instead of the one we used to have.”
Of course, the Greyhounds still need to give their fans something to cheer about, having set the bar pretty high last year. But right now, it is just business as usual at Ocean Springs, still trying to come down from that whirlwind of a season and yet using that season as the reason why in 2019. “It definitely feels like after that year it’s just a clear shift at Ocean Springs football and I’m ready to just take it home this year.”
“I think really almost every team on the Coast, it’s just that first playoff game. I think we’ve got to just to break that ledge before, and you never know what’s going to happen after that.”
“Maybe this year it won’t be – maybe we can just be fortunate enough to win a few and not worry about shipping folks off to GMA and all that. But it was wild.”
Led by their 25 seniors, the Greyhounds open up the 2019 season at home against Ridgeland on August 23rd.
For the record, Ocean Springs was going to be stop number 16 on tour, but Midnight Madness got cancelled on Saturday morning, which is being replaced with another night practice sometime later this week.