News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Long Beach Bearcats
When Friday night meets Saturday morning in the middle of August, the countdown is on at Long Beach High School.
Second year Head Coach Ryan Ross calls it Midnight Madness as the Bearcats strap on the pads before anyone else at stop number 17 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days.
“For us, it kind of starts the season off and hey, it’s here again. Here we go.” When the clock strikes midnight, emerging from the Long Beach locker room are the varsity members of the no sleep team. Quarterback Charlie Starita said, “It’s fun to come out here. I mean high schoolers coming out at 12 o’clock to play football, who wouldn’t want to do that? Get turned up in the locker room before hand, you know what I mean?”
The Bearcats are now in their second year of Midnight Madness under Head Coach Ryan Ross who brought his first MHSAA practice in full pads tradition over from Ocean Springs and the players love it. “You’re going to find out who will hit somebody in the face and who will welcome that and who won’t and that’s kind of what the goal is for the night.”
Wide receiver/ defensive back A.J. Allen said, “It’s just like you get that burst of energy. That first hit makes you just want to hit people more and more and more and it’s just something that you feel happy about, and then when you’re out there, everybody on you, you don’t want to mess up, so you try your hardest to do your job.”
Perhaps the spark the Bearcats need to wipe the slate clean of back-to-back one-win seasons. They were on the right track after winning last year’s regular season opener at West Harrison, but that didn’t stop history from repeating itself in the form of a 1-9 season including three losses due to forfeiture between COVID-19 and Hurricane Zeta. “1-8, that was the record last year. I mean a few games of that to COVID, but I mean we were not doing good at all. So, we’re trying to change that this year.”
“After losing that many games two years in a row, a lot of people not having faith in you, it eventually wants you to just do your best, win more games and have people change that feeling about you. They come to the games and have faith that you’re going to win that game instead of saying Long Beach, they lose eight games every year or they haven’t won more than two games in the past couple years. You just get sick of hearing it, and you just want to change.”
When the Bearcats were able to take the field, they scored more than one touchdown just twice last year, leading to an average margin of defeat of more than 18 points per game. “Last year was more ball control and trying to stay in ball games as much as we could. But this year, we’re going to open it up and try to spread it out a little bit, have more explosive plays.”
“We’re in a good spread offense and I feel like we can put up a lot of points per game if everybody shows up, dedication to those plays, we should be fine.”
Long Beach returns both nine seniors and nine starters for the 2021 campaign on its quest to get back to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The upside of having just one winning season during that stretch is that there is nowhere to go but up. “Energy is always good to have coming into a new season because if we start out bad, I mean we want to have that energy, enough energy to fight back.”
“After losing a lot of games you eventually decide that you don’t want to lose anymore. Like you said, nobody likes losing, so winning more games than we did a couple, few years, being the class to change things around, bringing hope. People think we lose games a lot and everything. We want to be the group to change that around, have everybody look at Long Beach different than they did in these past couple years. See that there’s actually changes instead of just saying changes, you want to show people that you can actually make a change.”
Back in Ocean Springs, the Greyhounds also carried on the Midnight Madness tradition Saturday morning.
Long Beach kicks off its season at Pass Christian on August 27th for their annual Oyster Bowl rivalry game.