25 Teams in 25 Days: Gulfport Admirals

Stop number 12 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days has earned the right to get some love on the first day of official practice.

Albeit two weeks later than normal due to COVID-19 August 17th is a date the Gulfport Admirals have had circled for quite a while as a previously uncertain 2020 season now becomes that much more of a reality as does the chance to defend their run of 23 in a row.

“I was anxious. I was up all night waiting for it.”

Head Coach John Archie said, “It’s like a present they can finally open. They’ve been waiting and didn’t know what they were going to be getting and if it was going to be pushed back but it’s finally here and these kids are excited. We’re excited. We’re just ready to get the season underway.”

Christmas in August for the Gulfport football program more than two months after its long-awaited return to on-campus workouts and less than three weeks away from normalcy. Left Tackle Khalil Ayodele said, “We’ve actually been looking forward to it a lot. We’re just ready to get back on the field. COVID really messed everything up, but we’re just ready to get back here and play ball.”

Adapt and overcome is the new motto for an Admirals team that lost its first two home games due to the coronavirus pandemic and won’t play a home game until October 2nd.  Free Safety/ Nickleback Jacob Stevenson said, “We’re going to go through a lot of obstacles this season. No matter what, we’ve got to stick together as a team, and we’ve got to be one and overcome all the obstacles that we have so we can be a championship team.”

Gulfport already took a big step in that direction last year, finally breaking a playoff curse that truly made no sense whatsoever.

The Admirals were previously 0-7 in their last seven first round games, dating back to 2011 until their 20 to 19 win over George County changed everything. “The most that stands out was that playoff win.”

Linebacker Isaac Cupp said, “I remember nerves were high. We were scared but we were ready. Just finally changed history and we came out more ready than ever and we did it.”

“It was a happy moment, just the energy after the game to see everybody rejoicing like that to know that we finally made history and passed the hump, it was just great.”

When the Admirals start the 2020 season on September 4th, they’ll be doing so at Oak Grove against the same Warriors team that knocked Gulfport out of the playoffs last season. A friendly reminder that the new hump is getting out of the second round in class 6A and then some. “Our goal is that we’re trying to go to state this year. We got past the first round last year. We feel like we’ve got a really good group, defensively and offensively that’s coming back. It’s kind of a different vibe. These guys have worked their butts off.”

“Right after that game we had a talk. We said next year we’re going to make something special. We want to get that ring. We want to get past the first, second, third round and do something special at Gulfport.”

That’s not to say Gulfport hasn’t already been special in recent years, at least during the regular season. Dating back to 2016, the Admirals have absolutely dropped anchor in region 4, riding a 23 game district winning streak heading into 2020.

Now it’s up to this year’s class of 17 seniors to maintain that standard of being both the hunted and the hunter. “We definitely have a target on our back every year. But we love it. We play up to it.”

“I would say it’s motivation because not many people have this. Out of all the teams on the Coast, we’re the only people to have this record. And everyone wants it, so we’re doing everything we can to keep it.”

“We’re expected to win the district around here every year. That’s what we want. It might be some bulletin board material for some other teams, but that’s what we want. And we feel like if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat Gulfport on the Coast. But our kids, they want to be the best on the Coast but they also want to be the best in the state and that’s what we’re aiming towards.”

Gulfport lost its Port City Bowl game against East Central on August 21st and another home game against Northwest Rankin on August 28th without picking up any other games.

The Admirals posted an overall record of 10-3 in 2019.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports

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