Bulldogs begin, end strong against Gulfport

Published 1:52 am Saturday, September 8, 2007

NATCHEZ — Neither team wanted to give up, but a late Gulfport rally wasn’t enough to defeat Natchez High, who won 29-23 in overtime.

“It was a great game,” Admiral head coach Marcus Wood said. “The kids fought the game.”

Freshman quarterback Javon Washington got his first start and completed his first seven passes in the first quarter to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.

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“I was nervous at first,” Washington said. “After those first completions and taking that first hit, I settled down.”

Gulfport had trouble with turnovers in the first quarter losing a fumble on a Ricky Floyd run and giving up an interception to Ladd Rhodes that led to a touchdown.

“I challenged the defense all week to step up and make plays,” Bulldog head coach Lance Reed said. “Gulfport came to win and didn’t give up.”

Gulfport started to find their rhythm in late in the second quarter.

The Admiral defense held the Bulldogs to a field goal inside the 20-yard line.

After an impressive kick-off return by Floyd to the Bulldog 48-yard line, it was all Rhodes.

He connected five of nine passes to get to the 5-yard line and scored the first touchdown for the Admirals on a 5-yard quarterback draw.

“We played our butts off,” Rhodes said.

Gulfport came out in the second half fired up.

Bulldog returner Donald Bates fumbled the kick off and the Admirals recovered it with great field position on the 37-yard line.

Gulfport had to settle for a 43-yard field goal to close the gap.

After a Natchez four and out, the Admirals relied on Floyd to push the ball up the field.

“We changed our game plan up a little,” Wood said. “We felt like we could move the ball on the ground.”

Gulfport tied the game 17-17 with five straight rushes from Rhodes and Floyd with 44 seconds left in the fourth.

After a slow start for both teams in the fourth quarter, Gulfport took the lead with a 63-yard run from Floyd.

“It started to feel like déj vu from last week,” Reed said. “The defense really started to feel the pressure.”

Gulfport missed the point after to make the score 23-17.

Natchez responded with a 70-yard drive. Travis Isaac tied the score on a 2-yard run.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t take the lead. Gulfport blocked the extra point.

Natchez got another chance at the win before time expired with less than two minutes left but the 37-yard field goal fell short.

The scored remained tied at 23 at the end of regulation.

Gulfport got the first opportunity to score in overtime from the 10-yard line

They drew the Bulldogs offsides for at 5-yard penalty that put them with a first down from the five.

“I told the defense they had to fight,” Isaac said. “We all knew our defensive line could hold them.”

After a 3-yard run from Rhodes, Floyd was unable to punch it in for the winning score.

Rhodes mishandled the snap on third down and it was recovered by the Bulldog defense.

“We had some good things happen tonight,” Rhodes said. “It was the mistakes that lost it for us.”

The winning touchdown for Natchez came on an 8-yard quarterback draw from Isaac.

“I told myself I had to score,” Isaac said. “I had to be a player and get it done.”

Reed said he was proud of the effort of his team.

“Our guys played hard tonight,” he said. “We came out slow in the second half and bad things happened. I’m happy we came out on top.”

Gulfport fell to 0-2 for the season and Natchez improved to 1-1.