High School Sports

Knight, tough defense lead Gulfport past Ocean Springs to win Region 4-6A title

Gulfport's Jalen Knight runs the ball against St. Martin on Friday, September 22, 2017, at Milner Stadium. GHS hosted Ocean Springs on Friday.
Gulfport's Jalen Knight runs the ball against St. Martin on Friday, September 22, 2017, at Milner Stadium. GHS hosted Ocean Springs on Friday. amccoy@sunherald.com file

Quarterback Jalen Knight ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns Friday as Gulfport clinched the Region 4-6A championship with a dominating 35-6 win over Ocean Springs at Milner Stadium.

Gulfport (7-3) improved its region record to 6-0 heading into its regular season finale in Biloxi next week. Ocean Springs fell to 3-7, 1-5 and will take on Harrison Central next week.

Gulfport scored on its first four possessions in the first half to put this game away early.

Knight had scoring runs of 11, 17 and 9 yards to cap off the first three scoring drives. Larozzo Shugart did the honors on the fourth drive, capping the 90-yard march with a 3-yard run with 1:54 left before halftime.

Gulfport’s defense did the honors in the second half as Carlos Thomas returned a Blake Noblin interception 50 yards for the Admirals’ final touchdown.

“Our offense did a great job tonight,’’ Gulfport coach Eddie Pierce said. “They came off the ball, we ran it well. I thought Jalen Knight did a great job leading us. Of course, our defense has played great all year. They just slammed the door tonight.

“I’m so proud of this team to be the region champs and I can’t say enough about my coaching staff.’’

Knight replaced TQ Newsome a week ago when he was injured against D’Iberville and guided the Admirals to 34-14 road win. He followed up that performance by running for 175 yards on 16 carries, and he completed 2 of 3 passes for 37 yards against Ocean Springs.

“We knew our quarterback (Newsome) was down and everyone had to step up,’’ Knight said. “I have to give a shoutout to my o-line. They did great. The defense did great as well.’’

Knight went to the bench with 2:22 left in the third quarter and the Admirals leading 35-0. However, backup quarterback Dawson Malley got his helmet knocked off late in the fourth quarter, and Knight had to come back in the game for one more snap to complete his evening.

Antonio Sandifer added 73 rushing yards on 11 carries for Gulfport, and Shugart had 51 yards on 5 carries. The Gulfport defense recorded two sacks for a minus-15 yards.

“I want to take my hat off to the offensive line,’’ Pierce said. “It doesn’t get any easier (next week at Biloxi). Coach (Bobby) Hall has got them going.’’

Ocean Springs ended the first half with 10 yards of total offense. But the Greyhounds clawed back in the second half. Deveaunce Gaines finished the game with 112 rushing yards on 23 carries, and scored Ocean Springs’ lone TD on a 1-yard run with 3:23 left in the game.

But the Greyhound passing game netted only one completion on 9 attempts for 8 yards.