GULFPORT – Gulfport fumbled on four consecutive second-half possessions and watched their Class 7A playoff aspirations slip away with a 17-13 loss to Pearl Friday at Milner Stadium.
The Admirals (6-5) saw their season come to an end in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Gulfport (6-5) held a 13-3 lead on the Pirates (8-3) in the third quarter, but Pearl quarterback Jack Durr scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give his team the win and advance to the next round of the postseason.
Gulfport got off to a roaring start to begin the game.
On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Niko Williams tossed a pass down the sideline to Bishop McGruder, who raced to the endzone for a 66-yard score. The extra point was no good. The rest of the first half was arguably not the best offensive showing with neither team able to move the ball. Gulfport managed to get deep into Pearl territory but missed a 23-yard field goal with 3:13 to play in the second quarter and held a 6-0 lead at the half.
Pearl finally got on the board with a 35-yard field goal from Colston Bennett in the third quarter.
But Gulfport had a short field starting their drive in Pearl territory. Williams hit McGruder with a pass and two plays later, Cooper Crosby scored from four yards out with 3:58 to play in the third quarter. Grayson Tegeder’s extra point put the Admirals up 13-3.
Pearl finally got their offense on track when Durr tossed a deep pass to Shaden McCollum to the Gulfport 8. The Pirates scored from a yard out with Durr pushing it in on the third play of the fourth quarter. Bennett’s extra point made it 13-10 with 10:41 to play in the game.
Gulfport fumbled on their next possession and Pearl took advantage with Durr scoring again from a yard out with 4:07 left to play. Bennett’s extra point put the Pirates on top 17-13 for the first time in the game. Gulfport had opportunities to re-take the lead in the final four minutes of the game, driving into Pearl territory on two possessions but fumbled the ball away twice.
Gulfport had their fourth turnover of the game with 2:09 to play and Pearl was able to run the clock out.
The Admirals have suffered first-round playoff losses in 11 of the last 12 trips to the post-season.