OCEAN SPRINGS — Ocean Springs is in the midst of its most successful four-year span on the football field in school history.
And for most of the past three years of that run, it was the Greyhounds offense that got a plethora of attention with two-time Class 6A Mr. Football Bray Hubbard at the controls of the high-powered OSHS attack.
This season, the Greyhounds are off to a solid and maybe a bit surprising 5-1 start under new head coach Jake Bramlett and have won five straight games including opening Region 4-7A play with a big 43-13 thumping of D’Iberville last week. And while the OSHS offensive is still rolling right along behind new signal-caller Will Berglind, tailback Will Smith and receiver Bryshen Smith, the Greyhound defense is not to be overlooked either.
One of Bramlett’s first moves was to bring in Pass Christian head coach Chase Carmody as defensive coordinator. whom he had worked with previously, and the Greyhounds veteran defensive unit has flourished in the process.
So much so that a trio of OSHS senior defenders were selected last week for a pair of different upcoming All-Star contests in December.
Defensive tackle Talan Carter was chosen for the Mississippi roster in the prestigious Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Football Classic, while middle linebacker Eric Moore and outside linebacker Trace Carter were picked to play for the South squad in the annual Bernard Blackwell North/South All-Star Game.
“There’s a lot of snaps piled up from those guys on that side of the ball,” Bramlett said, of his All-Star trio. “Those guys are all veterans and have been a vital part of the success we’ve had here over the past few seasons. They’ve played a lot of football against some really good teams and they just continue to work hard and keep getting better. They deserve all of the recognition they get.”
The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Talan Carter has developed into a mainstay up front in the trenches for Ocean Springs. His inside maneuvers have resulted so far in six tackles for loss and a sack and he also takes on numerous double teams from the opposition and his engagement with them frees up the linebackers and ends to make more tackles.
“He’s the heartbeat of that defense without a doubt,” Bramlett added. “And he’s really developed a pass rush this year that he didn’t have before. Talan is a very unselfish player and his motor is always running.”
In addition to his defensive prowess, Carter got into action on the offensive side of the ball as well a few weeks back when he moved to tight end against Picayune and Berglind hit him with a touchdown toss from 18 yards out on fourth down to cap a 10-play, 68-yard drive and secure a 31-21 win in the process.
Moore was the Greyhounds’ leading tackler last year as a junior when he recorded an impressive 107 total stops. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Moore has picked up this season right where he left off last year as he mans the middle for OSHS and he has registered a team-high 56 total tackles including six for a loss and he has one sack.
“He is an old-school middle linebacker, he has that type of mentality,” Bramlett continued. “He fills the hole with an intensity that not many others have. He’s been a real key contributor for us over the past two seasons.”
Moore picked up 15 tackles and two tackles for loss for the Greyhounds in that big win over the Maroon Tide as well.
The other part of that Carter tag team on the OSHS defense is making a name for himself as well. Trace Carter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, leads the Greyhounds in tackles for loss with 10 and in sacks with three.
He led the Greyhounds in a 39-14 win over Natchez earlier this season with eight individual tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack.
As a junior, he recorded 51 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, five sacks and he picked off a pair of interceptions.
“Trace has a really high football IQ, and he’s made a reputation for himself with his play that causes many teams to run away from his side,” Bramlett said. “He’s always got his eye on the ball no matter where it is.”
In addition to that all-star trio, the Greyhounds have had two other seniors step up their play this season and they’ve progressed into a key supporting cast.
Lamar Vaxter moved from the defensive line to the other outside linebacker slot and has recorded 46 total tackles (second most on the team) including five tackles for loss and one sack while lineman K.D. Weathers has emerged up front with Talan Carter and has the third most stops on the team with 36 solid stops including three tackles for loss and one sack as well. Also, in the secondary, seniors Kristian Dillard and Christian Bingham lead the way with two interceptions apiece.
“The defensive coaches have done a great job of getting every player in the right place, and coach Carmody immediately saw a need to move Lamar to linebacker and that’s been a blessing for us,” Bramlett concluded. “All season long the defense has done a great job of creating turnovers and putting our offense in good positions. They were really a key early in the year when we were getting those new guys in place on offense. Those seniors have really been productive and provided a lot of leadership for us this season.”
And the Greyhound defense is one reason that OSHS has maintained its recent level of success this year that began several seasons back.