BILOXI - The Biloxi-Gulfport rivalry played out in dramatic fashion on the soccer pitch Tuesday night.
It was a split doubleheader with both contests decided by penalty kicks. The Gulfport girls came out on top in the first match while the Biloxi boys closed strong to beat the Admirals in the nightcap.
The boys game finished tied 1-1 after a pair of overtimes and Devin Tillson provided the decisive goal to give the Indians the win via penalty kicks, 4-2.
"Devin Tillson came up huge," Biloxi coach Randall Molsbee said. "What pressure on a high school kid to have the game in his hands."
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Biloxi (15-4-2, 6-0) claimed the Region 8-6A title with the win and will host Terry in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Gulfport dropped to 10-5-3 and 4-2 and will travel to Pearl in the first round.
Gulfport took the early 1-0 lead and had the momentum for much of the first half.
A pair of seniors hooked up on the lone goal for Gulfport with Alexander Hopkins passing to Jeff Bruni, who was streaking down the field to his left. Bruni finished off the goal with ease, giving the Admirals a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.
There was a very different tone to the game in the second half as Biloxi picked up its play.
"In first half, we were the better team," Gulfport coach Henrik Madsen said. "We created really good opportunities and missed them. Biloxi came out in the second half on fire and we couldn't really get anything going. There was too much pressure to settle in and play."
Biloxi sophomore Brenan Burney provided the equalizer when the ball landed in front of him following a battle for possession. Burney had the perfect finish from 18 yards out to tie the game at 1-1 with 16 minutes remaining.
"Burney is a surprise," Molsbee said. "He's a 10th grader who has had some big goals in games. We put it on his shoulders tonight. I wasn't sure when we subbed him in, but you could tell by the level of his play that he wanted it. We left him in and he came up with the goal. I'm proud of him."
Gulfport had 14 shots on goal in the first half and only four in the second half.
GIRLS: The Gulfport girls edged Biloxi, 4-2, on penalty kicks after the two teams battled to a scoreless tie through regulation and a pair of overtimes.
All four Gulfport girls stepped up and hit their penalty kicks with ease. Senior Megan Wadsworth provided the decisive goal, finding the left side of the net.
Also coming through on penalty kicks for Gulfport were junior Taylor Wallace, senior Maureen Maher and junior Olivia Prescott.
"We've been hammering PKs pretty much all year," Gulfport coach Chris Pryor said. "I told myself it may come down to it, it may not. Every time we come into a district game, especially with Biloxi, there's going to be close games. You've just got to prepare for that."
Biloxi (7-8-4, 2-3) barely missed a goal in the first overtime when a header by Quiava Lampley hit the right post off a corner kick from Sydney Cannette.
Biloxi beat Harrison Central and Hancock the previous two games to earn a spot in the playoffs.
"It was a safe, good game on both sides," Biloxi coach Teresa Martin said. "It's a real joy to watch these guys fight as hard as they fight. It's all about peaking at the right time and gaining a little momentum at the end of the season. I like where we're sitting right now. These girls are great, great group to be around."
Gulfport's best chance at scoring came to start the second half when Maher's offering narrowly cleared the crossbar less than a minute into the second half.
The Biloxi girls will travel to face Pearl on Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs while Gulfport is set to host Terry.
Gulfport finishes the regular season with a 14-2-3 and 6-0 mark to take the Region 8-6A title.