Justin Walley’s ‘Pick 6’ ices No. 5 D’Iberville’s 22-13 win over Gulfport

GULFPORT — D’Iberville used a pair of big plays to overcome three second-half turnovers and turn back a determined Gulfport team 22-13 to remain on top of Region 4-6A Friday night.

The Warriors’ victory combined with Hancock’s 21-14 upset win over No. 6 Harrison Central (6-1, 4-1) sets up an interesting meeting October 30, with D’Iberville (7-0, 5-0) in position to clinch the Region 4-6A title.

“It’s a big week for us next week at Harrison Central,” said Warriors coach Larry Dolan. “We have a chance to play for a region championship.”

For Gulfport (1-8, 0-4), the loss means the Admirals will not make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. 

Although the Admirals were coming into 2020 looking for their fourth consecutive region championship, an early bout with COVID-19 cost them losses against St. Martin and West Harrison. 

“It would be a different scenario,” said Admirals coach John Archie, who said the team’s loss of two weeks to COVID-19 lockdown cost them a chance to make a playoff run.

Off the strength of an 8-yard scoring pass from Dwight Williams to Justin Walley and a 34-yard field goal off the toe of Cullen Cox, D’Iberville took a 9-0 lead into the half. And then came a nightmarish start to the third quarter for the Warriors.

On the Warriors second play of the second half, Gulfport’s Isaiah Washington stepped in front of a Williams pass and returned it to the D’Iberville 11. Two plays later, Gavin Brown took the ball into the end zone for the Admirals to cut the Warriors’ lead to 9-6 as the point-after try was blocked.

On the second play of the ensuing D’Iberville possession, the Warriors fumbled to turn the ball over to Gulfport at the Warriors 22. Faced with a 4th-and-2, Gulfport decided to try to tie the game with a field goal, which D’Iberville blocked. However, D’Iberville was hit with a penalty that moved the ball to the Warriors’ 1-yard line, and Archie put his offense back on the field. Brown again called his number, squeezing in on the quarterback dive, giving Gulfport a 13-9 lead.

“It’s hard to beat a good team turning the ball over three times in a half,” Dolan said. “We had been behind earlier in the season, but we pulled the game out. They had momentum and their band was playing. I was wondering if we could come back on them.”

The Warriors comeback was lightning quick. With his team in possession at their own 45, D’Iberville running back Drey Lenoir said he noticed the Gulfport noseguard playing away from the hole called for on a dive. “I made one man miss in the hole and I was gone,” said Lenoir.

Lenoir’s 51-yard sprint not only gave D’Iberville the lead back at 15-13, but broke a slump for the junior running back. “In the last few games,” he said, “I have been tiptoeing into the hole. This week I decided to hit the hole hard.”

However, on the Warriors next possession, the Warriors went for some trickery which seemed to blow up in D’Iberville’s face. Walley attempted a jump pass on fourth down only to be intercepted by Gulfport’s Jakylon Campbell. 

Three plays later, though, Walley returned the favor, stepping in front of a Gulfport pass at the Warriors 45 and returning the picked pass for 55 yards and a score giving D’Iberville the win.

“We did a lot of good things tonight, but we came up short,” said Archie, who said his team improved in their second game after returning from COVID-19 quarantine. “We’ve got to get back to work.”

— Veto Roley

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