High School Sports

Gulfport must play perfect to pounce on Petal

The Gulfport defense piles on Long Beach's Derek Young to take him down during the 2016 Shrimp Bowl on Friday, August 19, 2016, in Biloxi.
The Gulfport defense piles on Long Beach's Derek Young to take him down during the 2016 Shrimp Bowl on Friday, August 19, 2016, in Biloxi. amccoy@sunherald.com

It seems odd to say about a team that’s coming off of a 42-0 victory, but No. 2 Gulfport must play better Friday if it wants to knock off Petal.

The Panthers come to Milner Stadium ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today. PHS brings with it a potent offense that survived a 56-42 shootout over Hattiesburg to open the season.

“I look at them on film and they have the (Clarion-Ledger) Dandy Dozen running back and an athletic quarterback. They have some defensive linemen who can get after you, too,” GHS coach Eddie Pierce said. “They’re well coached and they’re not going to do anything to beat themselves.”

The Panthers won last year’s showdown against Gulfport (1-0), 31-14. Pierce felt his team had a chance going into the second half but the Admirals let the game get away.

“Last year, we made too many mistakes to win the game,” he said. They came out and played hard.”

The Admirals will need to be more efficient offensively. Gulfport (1-0) scored 42 points last week against Long Beach, but a handful of the points were either scored or set up by the defense.

Recent Alcorn State commit, Cleveland Ford, threw for 120 yards, but he was intercepted and completed just 4 of 19 passes. Pierce said Ford was a victim of drops at times but will need to play cleaner Friday night. Fellow quarterback, Rhodes Walker, played well, completing 4 of 6 passes for 28 yards.

Pierce also said the Admirals’ offensive line will have to improve from an underwhelming performance.

“We just did not come off the ball like I'm accustomed to,” Pierce said. “Hopefully we've got that fixed.”

Defensive challenge

The game will likely come down to how well Gulfport can contain Petal’s potent performers on offense.

Quarterback Tanner Estill, coupled with running back Stephon Huderson is a load for defenses. Huderson, a Tulane commitment, rushed for three touchdowns and caught a fourth. Estill proved to be a true dual threat, accounting for 142 yards and two touchdowns rushing, with 157 yards and three scores through the air.

“(Huderson) is explosive and runs hard. He's hard to bring down. He's just an explosive back,” Pierce said. “Where they’re so dangerous is because of the quarterback. Last year's quarterback wasn't much of a runner but now you have a dual threat back there who can really cause nightmares.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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