Jaquaris Dean's one-yard touchdown run in overtime lifted Meridian past Gulfport 21-14 in round one of the Class 6A state playoffs on Friday night at Milner Stadium.
Not only did the loss end Gulfport's season, it was also the last game for Admirals coach Eddie Pierce. After the Admirals' heartbreaking loss, Pierce announced his retirement. In 5 1/2 years at Gulfport, Pierce was 44-22.
“I'm headed into retirement,” Pierce said. “Gulfport's been a super, super great place to work. I coached the best group of kids in the nation at Gulfport. I couldn’t ask to be at a better place.”
The Admirals (7-4) had a chance to force a second overtime on their possession. Gulfport fumbled a pitch at the Wildcats' 10-yard-line. Meridian recovered to advance into the second round against Petal.
“We had our chances, but we didn't get it done,” Pierce said. “We battled, but we didn't make the plays.”
Deuntra Bolton's 3 yard fumble return for touchdown gave Meridian a 7-0 first quarter lead. Admirals quarterback TQ Newsome fumbled snap from center, leading to the Wildcats' first touchdown.
The Admirals tied the game at 7-7 on Newsome's 30-yard TD strike to Derick Hall early in the second quarter. The game-tying scoring play came on second-and-17.
Meridian went to its two minute offense late in the second quarter. Tevarrius Adams 30 yard TD pass to Jaquaris Dean gave Meridian 14-7 lead with 1:21 left before halftime. The Wildcats went 70 yards in four plays to regain the lead.
The Admirals reached Meridian's 45 on their ensuing possession, but couldn't advance as the half ended with the Wildcats ahead 14-7.
Meridian had a chance to extend its lead in the third quarter, reaching the Admirals 28 yard line. But the Admirals sacked Adams on consecutive plays to end the scoring threat.
Larazzo Shugart's four yard TD run tied the game at 14-14 with 10:38 left in regulation. The Admirals capitalized on Meridian muffing a punt at the Wildcats' seven.
Gulfport had a chance to possibly move into field goal range midway through the fourth quarter, reaching Meridian’s 35. But the Wildcats sacked Newsome on fourth and nine to eventually force overtime.