Despite a somewhat shortened season on the high school gridiron due to the pandemic that continues to ravage the world, the area teams knew just how close they were to not having a season at all in 2020. After all, several key logistical indices were not decided until the week of the first games such as capacity in stadiums.
However, even with numerous regulations and prohibitions in stadiums across Mississippi, the high school football players co tinued to meet each week with great expectation. That also went for the four area teams this publication covers - Bay High, Hancock, Pass Christian and Saint Stanislaus.
The Hancock Hawks was the only team that suffered a quarantine and missed games. But, all teams in the area were affected by the fallout having lost games to the pandemic and its subsequent quarantine.
It was a strange season, no doubt, but, one thing remained consistent. The area was blessed to be playing the game and here are the ones who exhibited great resolve in an unprecedented season.
The area was led on the gridiron by two outstanding football players. The Offensive Player of the Year is Bay High running back Noah Cutter and the Defensive Player of the Year is Saint Stanislaus linebacker Blake Bilich.
Each one wreaked havoc on their opponent and galvanized their teammates each week to accomplish a new goal. Here is a closer look at both sides of the football and the chess pieces that crowned the board.
All-Sea Coast Echo Offense
The offensive side of the ball is paced by the Player of the Year running back Noah Cutter of Bay High.
Cutter, a 6’ 210-lb running back, turned in 815 yards on 123 carries and 11 touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
He helped his Tigers to the post-season for the first time in several years and a 4-4 record.
Cutter commented, “We started the season wanting to spread the ball a little more but it worked out as the season went on that I carried the ball more. The pandemic affected just about everything we did from preparation to practice to games. It was certainly not a typical year. Coach (Jeremy) Turcotte brought intensity to the field and helped bring everything together. Next year, we have our sights set on a division title and going further in the playoffs.”
Joining Cutter on the first team are OL Devon Rando (Bay High), OL Urbano Mendez (Bay High), OL Dylan Thomas (Pass Christian), OL Brenham DeWitt (Hancock), and OL Connor Moran (SSC), QB Josh Peters (Bay High), TE Terron Bedford (Bay High), QB/RB Kam White (Pass Christian), WR Tyler Ahlers (Hancock), RB Kyle Stegall (SSC), RB Connor Ladner (SSC), and P Grant Sides (SSC).
Rando (5’10, 260 lbs) and Mendez (6’6”, 280 lbs) helped pave the way for Cutter as they graded out 89% and 93%, respectively.
Thomas (6’1”, 270 lbs) and DeWitt (6’2”, 245 lbs) were the anchors of their lines while Moran (6’2”, 220 lbs) led the way for the Rocks’ trench diggers as a two-year starter.
Peters, in his third year as signal caller, threw for 767 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 306 yards and five touchdowns for the Tigers. Bedford, a 6’4” 230-lb junior tight end, caught 13 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown.
White, a 5’9” 160-lb athlete, took over at quarterback for the departed Dustin Allison thus season and rushed for 625 yards and 10 touchdowns and threw for 774 yards and seven touchdowns for the Pirates.
Ahlers, a 6’1” 195-lb wide receiver, paced the Hawks’ receiving game with 16 receptions for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
Kyle Stegall, a 5’10” 190-lb sophomore running back, powered the Rocks’ running game with 581 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries while Ladner, a 6’ 175-lb wide receiver, led the Rocks with 21 receptions for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
Sides, a 5’11” 190-lb two-year starter, punted 36 times for 1,209 yards. He had a long punt of 56 yards and placed six kicks inside the 20 yard line.
Honorable mention selections on offense are WR Josh Bell (Bay High), OL Kain Lally (Pass Christian), OL Andrew Dufrene (SSC), OL Ryan Ladner (Hancock), FB Kaleb Crowe (Hancock), QB Kameron Breland (Hancock), QB Gage Peterson (SSC), WR Nour Tayara (SSC), RB Chris Alexander (Pass Christian), WR Thomas Gorman (Pass Christian), and WR Austin Scanlan (Pass Christian).
All-Sea Coast Echo Defense
The defensive side of the football created a wall against opposing offenses led by Saint Stanislaus linebacker Blake Bilich.
Bilich, a 6’ 205-lb run stopper, led SSC with 95 total tackles including 41 solos, seven tackles for loss, three hurries, an interception, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. This was his third year as a starter for the Rocks.
Bilich stated, “We knew coming into the season that we had to do whatever we could to help our offense. We had to force turnovers, make stops on fourth down, whatever was necessary. We have been fortunate to enjoy the post-season each year I have been here but exiting in the first round hurts. But, that teaches you relentless resolve. I could not have achieved what I did without my teammates. They are the best group ever and I thank them for every snap we took.”
Joining Bilich on the defense are DL Ryan McClellon (SSC), LB Ryan Tyler (SSC), DB Trustin Northington (SSC), AP Chandler Chapman (SSC), DL Kyle Fayard (Bay), DL Seth Russo (Bay High), DB Hosea Singleton (Bay High), Zay Chamberlain (Pass Christian), DB Montrel McGowan (Pass Christian), K Davon Klein (Pass Christian), DL Da’Kyre Smith (Hancock), LB Cameron Ganier (Hancock), and DB Tanner Lemon (Hancock).
McClellon, a 6’1” 240-lb lineman, has started for three seasons and turned in 54 total tackles with three tackles for loss, and two hurries. Tyler, a 6’2” 235-lb middle linebacker has started for two seasons. In 2020, Tyler tallied 78 total stops with five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a hurry and a fumble recovery.
Northington, a 6’1” 175-lb safety, collected 71 tackles including 32 solos, nine tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and two blocked kicks.
Fayard, a 6’2” 210-lb end, made 44 total stops with six sacks and is receiving interest from Southwest CC.
Russo, a 6’1” 290-lb two-way four-year starter for the Tigers, had 50 tackles and two sacks. He is receiving interest from several junior colleges in Mississippi.
Singleton, a 6’1” 190-lb defensive back, has committed to PRCC for football. In 2020, he tallied 47 stops with two interceptions and three pass breakups.
Chamberlain, a 6’1” 185-lb linebacker, collected 42 tackles with 12 tackles for loss and a blocked kick. McGowan, a 5’8” 145-lb defensive back had 26 tackles in the secondary. Klein, a 5’10” 190-lb kicker, was perfect on 24 PATs and was 5-for-6 on field goals while also handling kickoff and punting duties for the Pirates.
Smith, a 6’1” 255-lb lineman, tallied 31 tackles on the season while Ganier, a 5’10” 165-lb three-year starter, manned the middle of the second level for Hancock with 47 tackles. Lemon, a 5’11 185-lb safety, patrolled the secondary for the Hawks and tallied 34 tackles on the season.
Chapman, a 6’ 195-lb do-it-all player for SSC, had 788 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, 76 yards receiving, handled kickoff and punt return duties and recorded 10 tackles in spot situations.
Honorable mention selections on defense are DL Brady Favre (SSC), DB Gene Hoffman (SSC), DB Carson Moran (Bay High), AP Carmelo Simpson (Bay High), K Trevor Bordelon (Bay High), DL A J Mitchell (Pass Christian), DL Michael Ezell (Pass Christian), LB Aden Purchner (Pass Christian), DB Jaylin Acker (Pass Christian), AP Terry Patton (Pass Christian), LB Nicholas Lawler (Hancock), DB Kyle Shippey (Hancock), and AP Sema’J Robertson.