GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - On the eve of the 2020 Coast football season, we only had to make a 10-minute drive for our last stop of our preseason gridiron series.
The Gulfport Admirals have been Region 4-6A kings for the last three years and after last year’s second round exit, they now have their sights set on a new throne.
“We want to continue the streak, we want to win another district championship. We want to get over that hump. We got over that hump last year in the first round of the playoffs, but this year we want more,” third-year head coach John Archie told WLOX.
For the Gulfport Admirals there’s a collective sigh of relief. Not only have they made it to game week without any COVID-19 cases, but they no longer feel the pressure from their playoff curse. The Admirals were 0-7 in the first round of the playoffs from 2011 to 2018 before beating George County last year.
“Great morale boost. It’s one of the things we kind of beat ourselves up with. It’s one thing we could control,” Archie said. “Going into the offseason, that gave us a lot of momentum, a lot of energy. I think we’re on our to having one of the best offseasons since I’ve been here.”
Road Warriors will be the Admirals mantra for the start of their 2020 slate. Their first home game isn’t until October and sleepwalking into the season isn’t an option as they travel to Oak Grove. The same team that ended their 2019 season in the second round.
“We look at Oak Grove as one of the premier programs in the state. Having played for a 6A championship two years in a row. There’s a saying, in order to be the best you have to beat the best. Those are the kind of teams we want to play,” Archie said. “We go to Oak Grove this week, defending 6A runner-up and then next week we head over to Picayune, defending 5A runners up. I think we’re going to be in a good position to see how good we are to start off.”
While they strive to be the best in Class 6A, the Admirals presence is certainly felt in Region 4. Dominating the district since 2016 to the tune of a 23-game winning streak they plan to keep alive.
“We walk in here every day. This is where we walk and we see these. It’s kind of a legacy and we also want to put a trophy in there one day,” senior quarterback Breck Leflore told WLOX. “Football is a really big thing in Gulfport. Even when you’re going into stores and stuff, people know that you play football here. It’s definitely an expectation. You also have to go there and carry yourself a certain way.”
Breck Leflore has big shoes to fill at starting quarterback with the graduation of Cade Crosby, but will have a veteran offensive line and a bevy of talented running backs at his disposal. Defensively, Gulfport is stacked with nine returning starters with the secondary being the strength of the team.
“When people talk about high school football in Mississippi, we want Gulfport to come into that conversation and that’s what we’re constantly working towards,” Archie said. “We’ve done the best we can to keep our players safe with practice protocols. We’re going to continue to do that and we’re going to put a good product on the field on Friday nights for the city of Gulfport.”
The Admirals will be debuting a new face shield, made by the schools robotics team (FUSION 364), to add an extra layer of protection for the players when they take on Oak Grove in Hattiesburg tomorrow, September 4 at 7 p.m. for 2020 their season opener. ( https://www.wlox.com/2020/08/14/gulfport-high-school-football-robotics-collaborate-covid-face-shields/ )