Picayune beat Gulfport in a chess match

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 10, 2016

Maroon Tide running back Josh Littles pushes through the Admiral’s defensive line to gain a foothold closer to the end zone Friday night.

Maroon Tide running back Josh Littles pushes through the Admiral’s defensive line to gain a foothold closer to the end zone Friday night. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

For the past couple games, it’s been Picayune’s offense that performed during clutch scenarios, but Friday night their game against Gulfport was a different story.

The Maroon Tide’s defense was crucial in their 25-7 victory against the Admirals as they rallied four sacks in the game, three coming from middle linebacker Brian Taylor.

“We’re just trying to prove to everyone that we are a good team and better than last year,” Taylor said. “We were doubted coming into this year. Everyone thought we were going to lose these games, but we came out and played hard each game. I’m proud but not satisfied yet.”

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The Picayune Maroon Tide forced four turnovers on downs against a potent Gulfport offense, which turned out to be the game-deciding factor in Friday night’s bout.

The first quarter started out slow, ending scoreless.

“This was a chess match. They have a great defense that has tons of experience,” Picayune’s Head Football Coach Dodd Lee said.

To begin the second quarter, Maroon Tide place kicker Isidro Loya made a 22-yard field goal to put the Tide on the board, 3-0.

On Gulfport’s next drive, Maroon Tide’s Taylor broke through the offensive line to get his first sack of the night, pushing the Admirals back 7-yards, forcing Gulfport to punt and setting the Tide up for a scoring drive.

After a screen pass to Picayune’s star running back Josh Littles for 28 yards, senior fullback Blake Merrifield punched in a 2-yard rushing touchdown to make the score 10-0 with 7:35 to go in the first half.

“Those seniors played great tonight,” Lee said.

Gulfport returned the favor on the next drive, as their leading receiver, Jalen Knight, scored an 8-yard touchdown on a screen pass to make the score 10-7 with 3:15 to go in the half.

“We showed a little spark on offense tonight that we can build on. We knew they were good, it just wasn’t our night tonight,” Eddie Pierce, Gulfport head football coach said.

Before the first half ended, Picayune mounted a crucial 75-yard drive with a few big plays that helped them get their second touchdown of the night. On 1-and-10 on the Maroon Tide 38-yardline, fullback Merrifield ran 35 yards to the opponent’s 27-yardline. The next play, Maroon Tide quarterback Skylar Bowman threw a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Magee to the 2-yardline, setting up a Josh Littles rushing touchdown.

This is the third consecutive game Littles has found the end zone this season, making the score 17-7 with a minute to go in the first half.

It seemed Gulfport could not find an offensive rhythm Friday night, which Pierce said contributed to their loss.

“Drops kill drives. We had a couple of drops tonight that could’ve been prevented and we’ll work on that next week,” Pierce said. “I thought our defense played good enough to where we could get a win, but we just couldn’t put together any drives tonight.”

After a heated chess match in the third quarter, and Taylor getting his two final sacks of the game, both ending in punts, Picayune put the game out of reach with 2:18 to go in the game as David Baker plunged into the end zone from a yard away, leaving the final score of 25-7 in Picayune’s favor.

The undefeated Picayune Maroon Tide will prepare to play at Harrison Central High School next week, ending their four game streak of playing against 6A schools.