|No. 8 EMCC drops 42-35 home decision to No. 12 Pearl River in MACJC football playoffs|
SCOOBA, Miss. – Eighth-ranked East Mississippi’s bid for a first-ever MACJC/Region 23 football championship came to an end Saturday afternoon by way of a 42-35 home setback to 12th-ranked Pearl River in the opening round of the state playoffs held at Sullivan-Windham Field on the EMCC campus.
Coach Buddy Stephens’ outright North Division champions had their seven-game winning streak snapped with Saturday’s seven-point playoff loss, finishing the campaign with an 8-2 record for the school’s first eight-win season on the field since 1974. In addition to hosting a football playoff game for the first time in school history, EMCC was making its first state playoff appearance since 1984.
The visiting Wildcats of Pearl River opened the high-scoring affair by covering 58 yards on 10 plays during the game’s opening drive. With freshman quarterback Emil Jones connecting on all three pass attempts for 29 yards on the drive, PRCC took a 7-0 lead at the 9:22 mark on a 2-yard run by Ike Bowden and the successful point-after-touchdown attempt by Corey Carlson. With EMCC being held scoreless in the first quarter for only the second time on the year (season opener vs. Copiah-Lincoln was the other), the visitors held a 14-0 advantage at the end of the period when Rashod Henry scored on a 6-yard burst with 2:06 left in the quarter.
East Mississippi’s top-ranked offense managed to get going late in the opening quarter when a 15-yard completion from quarterback Randall Mackey to Wayne Bonner set up a 4-yard scoring strike from Mackey to Leon Berry on the first play of the second period. Following a 32-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, Pearl River responded by using nine plays to march 50 yards into the end zone. Henry’s 10-yard touchdown run up the middle – his second score of the contest – and the PAT put the Wildcats on top, 21-7, with 11:22 remaining in the half.
After a three-and-out possession, the Lions didn’t make things easy on themselves on their next drive when Mackey fumbled the ball deep in EMCC territory on a third-and-17 scramble. Pearl River promptly took advantage of the miscue by going 24 yards on just two plays, capped by a 21-yard scoring pass from Jones to Ray Chisholm. The Wildcats led, 28-7, with three minutes left in the half. East Mississippi closed the gap to 14 points by taking the ball 79 yards on eight plays, including three Mackey-to-Mike Outlaw connections for 68 yards. Pat Shed’s 11th rushing touchdown of the year from 2 yards out closed out the first-half scoring.
With their offense going three-and-out to open the second half, the Lions’ special teams unit attempted to ignite the home team. Starkville’s Kyle Roberts got loose to block his fourth field-goal attempt of the season - a 43-yarder by PRCC’s Carlson - but EMCC could not convert on its next possession when a fourth-and-18 pass attempt from punter Charlie Fall was picked off at midfield by Brandon Peters. However, the Lions’ defense hung tough and held on a fourth-and-three attempt. East Mississippi took over at its own 19-yard line and methodically marched 81 yards in just seven plays to cut the deficit to 28-21 heading into the final period. A 31-yard, Mackey-to-Berry completion ignited the drive that took less than three minutes off the clock and culminated with a 23-yard touchdown reception by Wayne Bonner – his team-leading eighth scoring grab of the year.
The visitors from Poplarville answered the bell yet again by going 60 yards on eight plays, including a 6-yard shovel pass from Jones to Chisholm for their second scoring hook-up of the day. Carlson’s PAT attempt was blocked to make the score, 34-21, in favor of the Wildcats. Trailing the entire contest, the Lions got as close as they would get in the game after Mackey found Meridian’s Montrez Mosley on a 15-yard scoring strike with 10:45 remaining in the contest. Phillip Dimino’s PAT conversion brought East Mississippi to within six points (34-28).
Pearl River seemingly put the game on ice by taking nearly seven minutes off the clock on an 11-play, 60-yard drive that was keyed by a pair of third-down conversion passes by Jones. Bowden punched it in from 2 yards out for the second time on the afternoon, while a successful 2-point conversion pass from Jones to Chisholm put the Wildcats on top by a 42-28 tally.
The scrappy Lions wouldn’t quit and used less than a minute to move the ball 46 yards for their fifth touchdown of the game. Highlighted by a 32-yard strike to Bonner, the drive resulted in a 9-yard scoring pass from Mackey to Outlaw with 2:50 left in the contest. A sophomore standout from Starkville, Outlaw finished with season highs of seven catches for 106 yards, while Mackey’s fourth scoring toss of the day was his 24th of the season.
The game got even more interesting when East Mississippi recovered an onside kick during the ensuing kickoff and started on its own 42-yard line. However, Mackey’s 16th interception of the season – by PRCC’s Johnnie Dixon - on the first play from scrimmage thwarted any chance of an EMCC comeback.
Coming into the contest leading the nation with an average of 488 yards of total offense per game, the Lions were held to 352 total yards by Pearl River – their lowest output since the second week (at Jones County) of the season during their only other loss of the year. Leading the country in passing yards and total offense per game, Mackey completed the afternoon 19-of-37 through the air for 259 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Held to below the century mark on the ground for only the second time on the year (Jones County was the other game), the Lions could muster but 93 rushing yards on 22 carries against Pearl River.
Accumulating 433 yards of total offense – 233 on the ground and 200 through the air - the second-seeded PRCC Wildcats from the South Division improved to 8-2 on the year and will travel to Perkinston to take on 10th-ranked and defending co-national champion Mississippi Gulf Coast for the 2008 MACJC/Region 23 championship next Saturday, Nov. 8.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 01 November 2008 )|
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