Jalen Knight didn’t hesitate when Gulfport coach Eddie Pierce sent him into the game. “Speedy” had already scored one touchdown Friday night on a direct snap. Although it took him about a quarter to get the Admirals’ offense clicking in place of starting quarterback T.Q. Newsome, the usual receiver ended up scoring twice more in the fourth quarter to lift visiting Gulfport to a 34-14 win at D’Iberville’s Buddy Singleton Field.
“Basically everyone told me I had to step up. I knew what I had to do,” said Knight, who finished with 50 yards rushing on nine carries. “When T.Q. went down he told me it’s my team now, so I just had to step up and do what was necessary for the team.”
Knight gave Gulfport (6-3, 5-0) a 13-0 lead at the halftime buzzer when he took a direct snap around the right side for a 1-yard score on fourth down.
After Newsome went down with an injury three plays into the second half, Knight added 21- and 1-yard scores in the fourth quarter to extend the Admirals’ lead to 27-6.
“Jalen came in and did a great job for us,” GHS coach Eddie Pierce said. “That’s what it takes. I’m proud of our whole team. I think our offensive line really rallied around Jalen.
“We rep him every day, every week so he’s our next guy. We expect him to come in and run the offense.”
Newsome opened the night’s scoring with a 69-yard run up the middle on Gulfport’s third play of the game.
Brady Groce got D’Iberville (3-6, 2-3) on the scoreboard in the third quarter with field goals from 28 and 39 yards, pulling the Warriors within seven at 13-6.
Quarterback Jaden Walley scored D’Iberville’s lone touchdown on an 18-yard run with 1:39 remaining when he orchestrated an eight-play, 56-yard drive.
“You can see what kind of athlete he is,” DHS coach Eric Collins said. “He’s going to be a dynamic player for us down the road.”
Gulfport’s Antonio Sandifer put the game on ice on the very next play from scrimmage when he broke free down the middle for a 53-yard score.
Both teams struggled to find any consistency on offense in the first half, combining for seven punts.
Gulfport specifically made it difficult on D’Iberville, which typically wants to establish the run and then build off of its ground-and-pound rushing attack. In five offensive possessions in the first half, GHS limited the Warriors to just one first down.
“It was really just our mindset. We felt like we had something to prove,” said Gulfport linebacker and Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game selection Karlos Dillard. “We knew they were going to try and run straight at us and that’s exactly what they did. Everybody did their job.
“Nobody tried to be a hero; everybody did their job.”
Things opened up a bit in the second half, with D’Iberville beginning to piece together longer drives, but by the time the Warriors found the end zone for the first time it was too late.
“I can’t say enough about Jeremiah Braziel, Gi’narious Johnson, Brandon Kees and Raynard Willis when he goes in,” Pierce said. “They have done a super job all year. They’re hard to block. They have made us better.”
The loss was disappointing for DHS, but Collins said he saw some positives.
“I was proud of our kids’ effort. I didn’t think we played with a lot of effort last week but I thought we played with effort tonight. I was proud of how our kids played,” he said. “We just have to keep running. That’s a good defense and a good football team. We battled with them, but we have to find a way to come and play consistent ball every week. I feel like if we would have brought this effort every week things might have been different for us throughout the year.
“We’re not out of it yet. We’re going to battle until the end. If we can win these next two weeks maybe we’ll have a shot for the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
D’Iberville will host Harrison Central next Friday before closing out the regular season against rival St. Martin.
Gulfport hosts Ocean Springs next week.
Prior to Groce’s second field goal a member of D’Iberville’s chain crew was removed from the sideline by police.