Gulfport fans had reason to be concerned last week when senior quarterback T.Q. Newsome sat out the second half of Friday’s 34-20 win over Biloxi with a sprained ankle, but fear not.
The Southern Miss commit will be ready to go when the Admirals play host to Petal in the first round of the Class 6A South State playoffs, according to head coach John Archie.
“He’s doing good. He’s fine,” Archie said Tuesday.
Gulfport (10-1) faces the difficult task of beating a team twice in the same season after taking down Petal 33-28 at Milner Stadium on Aug. 24.
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The Panthers got off to a 1-6 start to the season before winning their final four contests to clinch the No. 4 seed in Region 3-6A.
Newsome had his arguably best performance of the season against Petal, completing 16 of 25 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns while running 15 times for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Whether Newsome will be limited at all by a sore ankle remains to be seen. But Gulfport has proven that it’s more than a one-player offense. Senior Tionne Frost and junior Tyran Gable give Gulfport good options at running back. Frost has 137 carries for 896 yards and 14 touchdowns.
At receiver, Gulfport has three players with 362 yards or more. Junior Deshun Shields has 37 catches for 574 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing a couple of early games and junior Tommie Johnson has 34 catches for 594 yards and six scores.
Petal is far from an offensive juggernaut, but it has played strong defense down the stretch with just 20 points allowed over the last three games.
That being said, Petal had a soft stretch in the schedule over the final four weeks.
The winner will face the victor of Harrison Central-Oak Grove in the next round.
My prediction: Gulfport 28, Petal 21.
Here’s how I see the rest of Friday night’s playoff games going down:
Brandon 38, St. Martin 20: Brandon sits at 11-1, but it hasn’t had that many blowout wins this season. The Bulldogs feature one of the most balanced offenses in the state. Junior quarterback Will Rogers has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,292 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Senior running back Dallas Smith has 265 carries for 1,450 yards and 10 scores. Senior receiver Jonathan Mingo, an Ole Miss commit, is one of the best players in the state with 62 catches for 1,124 yards and 13 touchdowns. St. Martin (7-4) needs another determined effort from senior running back Ham McGee, who had 19 carries for a season-high 194 yards and two touchdowns against D’Iberville. This game matches up with Pearl-Ocean Springs.
Oak Grove 28, Harrison Central 24: Oak Grove (9-2) features a gifted dual-threat quarterback in Georgia commit John Rhys-Plumlee. He has put together a season similar to that of Gulfport’s Newsome, throwing for 2,036 yards and 24 touchdowns while running 100 times for 922 yards and 12 scores. Harrison Central coach Casey Cain spent 14 years on the staff at Oak Grove before landing in Lyman in 2015 and the Red Rebels (8-3) have a genuine shot on the road.
Pearl 24, Ocean Springs 20: This seems like an evenly matched game with both teams standing at 7-4. Pearl is a very young team, but head coach John Perry obviously knows what it takes to win in the postseason after leading the Pirates to the Class 6A state title a year ago. Pearl is very young on offense, but speedy on defense.
Picayune 38, Natchez 17: The Maroon Tide (8-3) shouldn’t have much of a problem handling the Bulldogs, but Natchez (7-4) does have a solid quarterback in senior Paul Hargrave, who has thrown for 1,954 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Picayune turns out a running back with huge numbers every year and it seems that senior Jortin Raine is getting better by the week. He has 2,273 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. The winner of Wayne County-Laurel awaits.
Stone High 27, West Jones 20: Stone High traveled to West Jones a year ago and won 24-14. The Tomcats are the most dangerous 4-6 team in the state with an offense led by senior quarterback Trey Arrington. He didn’t play his first game until Sept. 21 and he has cleared 100 yards rushing in his seven games this season. West Jones (9-2) lost 10-6 in the season opener to Wayne County. Stone High won 34-21 at Wayne County on Oct. 19. This game matches up with Brookhaven-Hattiesburg, which means the undefeated Tigers should await the winner.
East Central 28, Greene County 13: Greene County (9-3) should present the toughest challenge that East Central (10-0) has faced since winning 35-27 at Jefferson Davis County on Sept. 7. Greene County junior quarterback Jacob Mitchell has completed 69.4 percentage of his passes for 2,362 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has five receivers who have at least 29 catches this season with junior Drake Henderson leading the way with 48 receptions for 679 yards and five scores. East Central coach Seth Smith was encouraged by the play of his offense last week in a 56-20 win over Quitman, but he knows that it’s his defense that should set the tone throughout the postseason. The winner plays the victor of West Lauderdale-Florence.
Poplarville 42, Northeast Lauderdale 17: The Hornets (10-1) have scored at least 48 points in six games this season and the offense only seems to be improving as the season rolls along. There is no single go-to star on offense and that’s what makes Poplarville so dangerous. The winner of this game matches up with whoever comes out of the South Pike-Mendenhall contest. With East Central and Poplarville again on opposite sides of the bracket, Hornet Bowl II seems likely.
Nanih Waiya 31, Resurrection 10: RCS (6-4) has struggled against strong competition the last couple of games, losing by a combined score of 80-13 to Lumberton and East Marion. The Eagles face their toughest opponent yet in Nanih Waiya, which is 11-1.