The 2022 prep football season should be remembered as the “Year of the Quarterback” in Jackson County.
It’s been almost a quarter of a century since a pair of standout signal-callers the caliber of Bray Hubbard and Kaden Irving have shared the stage in the same county with a long and storied tradition of producing quality prep football teams and players.
The dynamic duo 23 years ago, in 1999, was Moss Point’s Demarius Bilbo and Gautier’s Ray Ray Bivines.
This season, Hubbard of Ocean Springs and Irving of Gautier, have each guided their respective squads to opening round home games in the state playoffs this Friday. The Greyhounds and Hubbard host Northwest Rankin in the Class 6A South State playoffs, while Irving and the Gators welcome in visiting Wayne County in the Class 5A South State Playoffs.
Hubbard is the reigning “Mr. Football” in Class 6A for the state of Mississippi, and he hasn’t missed a step in a stellar senior season after committing to play defensive back for Nick Saban and Alabama over the summer.
He has thrown for almost 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, but he’s just as dangerous with his feet as he is his arm. Hubbard has rushed for 1,236 yards and 14 scores. In total, he has accounted for 2,930 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hubbard has guided the Greyhounds to their second straight perfect 10-0 season and to a pair of Region 4-6A titles.
Irving, meanwhile, was just selected to participate in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Texas. And the honor is well deserved.
He has run roughshod over many teams this year as Irving has totaled an almost astonishing 3,529 total yards of offense and 46 touchdowns this season.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Irving has thrown for 3,132 yards and 38 touchdowns and also added 397 yards rushing and 14 scores. He has guided the Gators to an 8-2 record this season, which included an eight-game win streak which was the longest for the school since Bivines took snaps for GHS.
In back-to-back key region games for Gautier this season, Irving accounted for EIGHT touchdowns in both games. He threw for six scores and ran for two more in each contest.
It was the same scenario in the 1999 season, some 23 years ago, and that year involved yet another Gautier quarterback in Bivines along with Moss Point’s Bilbo.
Bivines accounted for over 2,000 yards of total offense and 33 touchdowns. The Gautier senior completed 63 of 123 passes for 1,163 yards and 19 touchdowns and he also ran for 768 yards and scored 14 times on the ground.
He guided Gautier to an 11-1 record, but they fell to Lawrence County in the second round of the state playoffs.
The slender 6-foot-1 standout led the Gators to a 34-3 record in his three years as the starting quarterback, which was also the first three seasons in the program’s history. He guided the Gators to 32 consecutive regular season wins, which still stands as as school record. That included an 11-0 season in both 1997 and 1998 and a 10-0 in 1999.
Bilbo, meanwhile, was a junior in that 1999 season and produced a solid season as well for Moss Point. In his first year as the MPHS starter, he also accounted for just over 2,000 yards in total offense and 20 touchdowns. Bilbo threw for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns and also ran for just over 500 yards and six scores. Moss Point finished the 1999 season at 8-5 and lost to Provine out of Jackson in the second round of the state playoffs.
Of course, Bilbo returned for his senior season and made it one to remember. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder led his Tiger team to a 13-1 mark, a Class 5A state title and a national Top 25 ranking in the 2000 season. He completed 169 of 316 passes and threw for 3,034 yards and 31 touchdowns while also rushing for five scores.
Bilbo signed with Georgia Tech and started for parts of two different seasons. Bivines signed with Mississippi State but only played sparsely.