Senior defensive back Zae Crain wore a broad smile and a WWE-style belt over his right shoulder after Gulfport’s 42-21 drubbing of Harrison Central at Milner Stadium.
“Ain’t nobody taking this right here away,” he said as he tapped on the belt a couple of times.
The Admirals won their 13th consecutive Region 4-6A contest Friday night, jumping out to a 35-7 lead at the half and ending a six-game winning streak for Harrison Central.
The Red Rebels entered the game as arguably the best competition for Gulfport in the region, but the Admirals forced five turnovers to put the game to rest early.
Crain had two interceptions of his own, including a 55-yard return for a touchdown to set the score at 35-7 with 1:36 left in the first half.
“The potential has been there,” Gulfport coach John Archie said of Crain. “Me and Zae have a special relationship. I’ve just been pushing him to be the best he can be. I’m so dang proud of that boy I don’t know what to do.”
Gulfport sits at 7-1 overall and 4-0 in region plan, but another stiff test awaits next week when D’Iberville (5-2, 3-1) comes to Milner Stadium for a game that may very well decide the region. Harrison Central dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the region.
Gulfport has had to battle late for victories against St. Martin and Hancock, but the Admirals appeared ready Friday to turn it up another notch entering the final three weeks of the regular season.
“We don’t plan on anybody taking it,” Archie said. “We’re planning on getting better and better. We’re 7-1 and we’re nowhere near satisfied with where we are. We’re just going to keep on rolling.”
For Archie, it was a relief to deal with less drama after winning by 7 points or less in three of the last four games.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish all year, play a complete game for four quarters and I believe we did that tonight,” the first-year head coach said.
The tone was set early in the game as the Gulfport defense forced Harrison Central quarterback Dayln Anderson to fumble the ball away on the Red Rebels’ first play from scrimmage.
Kyrese Bryant and Malcolm Bell also came up with interceptions for the Admirals. Bell took his pick back 40 yards for a touchdown, giving the Admirals a 21-0 lead with 10:30 left in the first half.
“We knew Dayln was going to be a good quarterback,” Crain said. “We had to come out here and hit him hard. We knew what we had to do.
“We’re fixing to see plenty of these (performances on defense) now. We’ve got rolling now.”
Gulfport senior quarterback T.Q. Newsome had another productive game of leading the Admirals’ offense. He completed 11 of 20 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns. He ran nine times for 43 yards.
Newsome and company moved one step closer to winning their second consecutive region championship.
“We play for each other,” the Southern Miss commit said. “It’s easy to come out here and be selfish and worry about individual stats. When we’re playing together, being a family, it makes it easier. We bond together and it translates to the field.”
The last team to hand Gulfport a loss was D’Iberville in a 20-17 game on Oct. 21, 2016.
“We don’t have nobody standing our way. We’ve got ourselves,” Crain said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing ourselves, keep going. That’s how we’re going to get through, just believing in each other.”