GULFPORT -- For the third time in six years, Meridian has eliminated Gulfport from the Class 6A state football playoffs.
Quarterback Tray Warren scored five touchdowns as the Wildcats rolled to a surprisingly easy 42-6 victory on Friday night at Milner Stadium.
Gulfport, the Region 4-6A champions, finished the year at 9-3. Meridian (7-5) plays host to Oak Grove in the second round next week.
"Coming into the game, we knew Meridian had a good team," Admirals coach Eddie Pierce said. "For us to have a chance at winning, we had to play well. The best team won tonight."
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Meridian, the fourth seed out of Region 3-6A, resembled the squad many picked in the preseason to make a deep playoff run. Meridian also ended Gulfport's seasons during the 6A playoffs in 2010 and 2013.
D'Angelo Anderson's five yard fumble return for a touchdown puts Meridian up 7-0 after one quarter. The Wildcats never looked back.
Meridian delivered the knockout punch in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns to pad its lead to 28-0 at halftime.
Warren scored on runs of 13, 11 and 1 yards, accounting for the Wildcats' second quarter scoring. The 6-foot senior passed for 165 yards and ran for another 45 yards with the five scores.
"Getting off to a fast start is always to your advantage," Wildcats coach Larry Weems said. "We were able to make big plays early. We've prepared like we have all season long. Everything just worked tonight."
The Admirals were held to 72 yards at halftime, including 23 rushing from Deon Cole.
Meridian extended its lead to 42-0 after three quarters as Warren scored on runs of 2 and 1 yards.
Gulfport avoids a shutout on Cole's two yard TD run with 1:13 left to play. The senior had 72 yards rushing. For the season, Cole finished with 1,473 yards.
"I'm proud of our seniors and the team for what we accomplished this year," Pierce said.