PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Trailing Petal by 20 points, Gulfport was on the verge of letting its season slip away.
Moments later, junior Ja’Korian Newsome forced a fumble, the Panthers recovered on their way to a 34-0 upset win over the Admirals (10-2).
"Before the game we just hyped ourselves up and we also remembered that we had our backs against the wall,” Newsome said. “So, it was a do or die moment. Either we win or we go back home, and we didn't want to go back home at that moment."
Petal (6-6) remains alive another week, and Newsome gets to keep doing what he enjoys – hitting people.
The linebacker leads the Panthers with over 70 tackles, averaging nearly 9 tackles per game.
"I like being physical,” Newsome said. “And also you have to have good communication because you make calls to the D-line and everyone else. So, I like communication." "Really good football player for us, great young man,” said Petal head coach Marcus Boyles. “He studies the game, studies a lot of film. Very instinctive player that doesn't miss a lot of tackles."
Newsome has embodied the spirit of Petal over the last five games – a tough group that started the season 1-6 and is now headed into the quarterfinals of the class 6A playoffs against longtime rival Oak Grove. The Panthers lost to the Warriors by just a touchdown in September.
“I thought our kids have shown a lot of perseverance in the last few weeks,” Boyles said. “We went down [to Gulfport] and played extremely hard and played with a lot of energy and a lot of passion.” “I know for sure I get to play one more game with my brothers,” Newsome said. “Also, the environment’s going to be kinda wild but we’re going to learn to just control ourselves and play like we did against Gulfport.”