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Conerly's tipped TD reception lifts Gulfport past Red Rebels

 Gulfport running back Deon Cole drags Harrison County defenders for a first down, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Gulfport running back Deon Cole drags Harrison County defenders for a first down, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- Alton Conerly prevented Gulfport from suffering a rare loss to Harrison Central.

Conerly's 5-yard touchdown reception with 10 seconds left lifted the Admirals to a thrilling 13-12 victory on Friday night at Milner Stadium.

Not only did Gulfport (6-2, 4-0) win its 33rd game in 38 tries over Harrison Central, the Admirals remained tied atop the Region 4-6A standings with top-ranked Ocean Springs (7-1, 4-0).

"The kids played hard and never gave up," Admirals coach Eddie Pierce said. "It's a tribute to the kids and our coaches. The kids never think they're out of a game. They don't quit. I'm proud of them."

Gulfport appeared headed for defeat until the Admirals recovered a fumble at their own 42-yard-line with 1:02 left. Cleveland Ford hit Jalen Knight on a 53-yard reception to the Red Rebels' five. Ford passed for 221 yards.

Ford's fourth down pass was intended for Sean Daniels. A Red Rebels defender tipped the ball from Daniels. The deflection landed in Conerly's hands for an unlikely game-winning touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone.

"The play was designed for Daniels," Conerly said. "I stayed focused and followed the ball. I had to make a play for us to win."

This senior class has never lost to Harrison Central. Making that catch was very important."

Harrison Central (3-6, 2-2) had several chances to turn the contest into rout in the first half.

Walter Carter's eight yard touchdown run gave Red Rebels a 6-0 first quarter lead. Conerly blocked the extra point attempt, which would eventually prove huge.

Tavis Williams threw a 43-yard TD strike to Demaurea Price as the Red Rebels led 12-0 at halftime. The two-point conversion run failed. One play earlier, linebacker Aaron Rainey's interception set up Harrison Central's scoring drive.

But the Red Rebels' inability to score on three other trips inside Gulfport's 20-yard-line kept the Admirals within striking distance. Deon Cole's interception at the one-yard-line with 40 seconds left in the half kept Harrison Central off the scoreboard. If Harrison Central had scored before the half ended, a three touchdown lead may have been too big a deficit for the Admirals to overcome

Gulfport scored with 10:50 left on Cole's one-yard touchdown run, cutting the gap to 12-7."I felt that once we scored, we'd be alright," Pierce said. "But I didn't think it would come down to the end like that."