|No. 13 EMCC Lions clinch North Division's No. 1 seed for state playoffs with 40-34 win over Itawamba|
WEST POINT, Miss. – The 13th-ranked East Mississippi Lions clinched the top seed in the MACJC’s North Division with a 40-34 football victory over the Indians of Itawamba Saturday afternoon at West Point High School’s Hamblin Stadium.
Despite six turnovers (three fumbles lost and three interceptions) in the contest, EMCC managed to move to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in division play by claiming its sixth consecutive victory on the year. The win guarantees coach Buddy Stephens’ Lions of the North Division’s No. 1 seed during the upcoming state football playoffs. East Mississippi will host the South’s No. 2 seed on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba. EMCC will be making its first state playoff appearance since 1984.
Itawamba, the reigning North Division champions, took the opening drive 54 yards in nine plays to begin the scoring. After converting on a fourth-and-one effort to keep the drive alive, quarterback Kenard Springer found Jeremy Jones from 22 yards out to make the score 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion pass attempt.
Entering the contest ranked first nationally in passing offense and total offense, the EMCC offense got off to a shaky start as freshman quarterback Randall Mackey fumbled during the Lions’ first possession. East Mississippi’s fifth-ranked passing defense unit helped set up the team’s first score, as Michael Ducksworth picked off his second interception of the year and ran it back to ICC’s 22-yard line. Five plays later, Mackey connected with Meridian’s Montrez Mosley on a 4-yard touchdown pass at the 5:54 mark. The successful point-after-attempt gave the Lions a lead (7-6) they would never relinquish.
EMCC put together consecutive scoring drives of 71 and 90 yards with Mackey converting on a long pass during each of the drives to move along the respective possessions. Helped by a 39-yard, Mackey-to-Mosley hook-up to the 4-yard line, the Lions went up, 14-6, on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Meridian’s A.J. Brown. Five minutes later and highlighted by a 47-yard aerial to Leon Berry, running back Cedrick Blanks of Meridian capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive by punching it in from a yard out with 8:38 remaining in the half.
Following an 11-yard touchdown pass from ICC’s Springer to Jeremy Wood at the 1:22 mark, it looked like Itawamba would go into the intermission trailing by just a touchdown (21-14). However, Berry, EMCC’s kick return standout, ran back an ICC punt 65 yards for the Lions’ fourth touchdown of the half with just eight ticks left on the clock. The Griffin, Ga., native previously returned a kickoff 81 yards for a score against Holmes earlier this season.
Itawamba, now 2-6 overall and 2-3 in North Division action, opened the second-half scoring by converting a Mackey interception by Austin Thomas into a 4-yard touchdown run by Ty Hardin at the 12:15 mark. Following a penalty-filled, nine-play drive that resulted in a missed 25-yard field goal attempt by West Point’s Phillip Dimino, EMCC’s defense once again set up the team’s offense when nose tackle John Rice of Starkville intercepted a pass deep in ICC territory. Fellow Starkville native Pat Shed capitalized on the miscue by cashing in on his ninth rushing touchdown of the year from a yard out to put the Lions on top, 34-20, with 8:00 left in the third quarter. The Indians cut the deficit in half (34-27) toward the end of the period when Springer capped a nine-play drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
After a scoreless 10 minutes of play to begin the fourth quarter, EMCC’s Alex Hill of West Point recovered a Springer fumble deep in the Lions’ territory on a fourth-and-one attempt. East Mississippi seemingly put the game away by marching the ball 90 yards on nine plays, aided by a 51-yard completion to Berry and capped by a 15-yard, Mackey-to-Mosley connection to make the score, 40-27, with 4:54 remaining in the contest.
However, the Indians would not go away quietly, as they pulled off a beautifully executed 73-yard hook and ladder scoring play from Springer to Word, who lateralled to Richard McFadden for the score with 3:07 left. ICC elected to try an on-side kick, but the Lions recovered on the 46-yard line. Four running plays by Shed and one by Mackey enabled EMCC to run out the clock and extend the school’s longest win streak since 1969.
Mackey, a 2007 PARADE All-American at Bastrop (La.) High School, finished the contest with 24-of-36 passing for around 325 yards and three touchdowns to give him 18 scoring passes for the year. Once again, Mackey was able to spread the ball around by hitting seven different receivers on the day. Mosley led EMCC’s talented receiving corps with eight catches, followed by Berry and Starkville’s Mike Outlaw with six and five grabs, respectively. On defense, the Lions picked off four ICC aerials to give them 17 interceptions on the season. In addition, reserve EMCC cornerback Kyle Roberts blocked his third field-goal attempt of the year on a 39-yard attempt by Itawamba’s Tre’ Kent in the first half.
Bidding for the school’s first-ever outright North Division football championship, the EMCC Lions close out their regular season next Saturday (Oct. 25) by taking on divisional foe Mississippi Delta in a 6:30 p.m. contest at Moorhead.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 October 2008 )|
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