|No. 2 EMCC Lions fall 43-26 to defending state champion Gulf Coast|
The contest pitted the reigning North and South Division football champions of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.SCOOBA – East Mississippi’s 10-game, regular-season winning streak came to a halt Thursday night on the Scooba campus, as the second-ranked Lions dropped a 43-26 home decision to No. 13 Mississippi Gulf Coast at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
The nation’s No. 2-rated offensive unit coming into the game worked the capacity home crowd into a frenzy on the opening play from scrimmage. Sophomore receiver Lance Lewis collected a Randall Mackey aerial and dashed down the left sideline 80 yards for a game-opening score. Phillip Dimino’s point-after-touchdown conversion quickly put the Lions on top 7-0.
Looking to avenge last year’s 27-23 home setback to EMCC, the Bulldogs answered the bell four plays later on Greg Jenkins’ 53-yard scoring pass to Kelvin Bolden. Bo Bryan’s successful PAT tied the score at 7-7 just two minutes into the inter-divisional battle. Following a three-and-out EMCC possession, Jenkins found Brett Moncrief for another 53-yard touchdown reception. The point-after attempt was true, putting the visitors in front 14-7 with 9:34 left in the high-scoring opening period.
Entering the night ranked last in the state in turnover margin, EMCC’s ball security concerns again became an issue on the ensuing kickoff, as Derrick Steele fumbled during the runback to give Gulf Coast excellent field position at the 33-yard line. A clutch Jenkins-to-Bolden connection on a third-and-13 play extended a slow-moving drive that saw the duo hook up again for a 20-yard score. The Bulldogs benefitted from a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the initial PAT miss by converting the follow-up try to make it a 21-7 contest with 7:09 remaining in the first quarter.
With Mackey at the controls, the home-standing Lions came roaring back after the visitors put up 21 unanswered points over a six-minute stretch. The All-America signal-caller from Louisiana first found former Northeast Lauderdale standout T.J. Ballou over the middle, and the former University of Alabama walk-on outran the MGCCC secondary for a 59-yard catch-and-run to the end zone. Dimino’s PAT cut the deficit in half, 21-14, at the 4:16 mark to end the first-quarter scoring.
Mackey, last year’s NJCAA Region 23 Offensive MVP, showed his versatility on East Mississippi’s next possession, bolting up the middle and running away from Bulldog defenders for a 65-yard touchdown scamper to begin the second quarter. However, EMCC’s chance to knot up the score missed left on the point-after attempt.
The momentum of the game seemed to be turning in favor of the home team following an ensuing three-and-out Gulf Coast possession that was capped by a Claude Davis sack. On a drive initiated by backup quarterback Brad Henderson of Starkville, the Lions drove inside the red zone looking to take back the lead. Mackey re-entered the game, but nearly threw an interception on his first play back. A 9-yard sack of Mackey by Brannon Byrd was immediately followed by a momentum-changing defensive play by the Bulldogs’ Sammy Brown. The sophomore linebacker jarred the ball away from Mackey and recovered the fumble himself at the 37-yard line. MGCCC jumped on the opportunity, with Eric Wills squirting up the middle from 31 yards out to put the visitors on top 28-20 five minutes before intermission.
The tone for the remainder of the contest continued to play out over the final minutes of the first half. An empty possession by the Lions, including another sack of Mackey, was followed by a third scoring connection between Jenkins and Bolden. With just over a minute left in the half, Jenkins hit his standout receiver in the right corner to make it a 35-20 contest after the PAT conversion.
Noted for their quick-strike scoring ability, the Lions didn’t settle for just running out the clock before intermission. Ignited by freshman British Footman’s 53-yard kickoff return, EMCC had just under a minute to attempt to make it a one-score ballgame. However, the drive stalled when Mackey’s fourth-and-one pass attempt fell incomplete in the middle of the field.
On the heels of a first half filled with long scoring plays and high-octane offense, the Bulldogs’ highly rated defense and state-best rushing attack dominated the second half of play. As a result, Gulf Coast managed the only score of the third quarter with a 34-yard field goal by Bryan coming at the 9:36 mark.
Limited to just 11 offensive plays in the third quarter by MGCCC’s stout defensive unit, the Lions were once again victimized by turnovers in the second half. A Mackey interception allowed the Bulldogs to utilize their efficient running game on a subsequent 15-play drive that used up nine minutes of clock time and resulted in a 25-yard Bryan field goal that made the score 41-20 with 11:40 left in the contest.
A brief ray of hope for East Mississippi was quickly dashed when Steele’s apparent 96-yard touchdown catch was nullified by a holding penalty in the end zone, giving Gulf Coast another two points on a safety. The Lions did manage to get the ball back on a fumble recovery midway through the final period. A 47-yard pass play from Mackey to Meridian’s Marcus McQuarley set up Mackey’s 1-yard keeper across the goal line at the 6:00 mark. The unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt via the air rounded out the game’s scoring to make the final, 43-26, in favor of the defending MACJC state champions from Perkinston.
Gulf Coast’s state-best running game totaled 274 net rushing yards on the evening, with Vick Ballard, the MACJC’s top ground gainer, toting the ball 27 times for 175 yards. Through the air, Jenkins was 12-of-22 passing for 238 yards and four touchdowns. Combining for 226 receiving yards between them, Moncrief and Bolden had seven and four catches, respectively, for the 3-1 Bulldogs.
EMCC’s Mackey accounted for 463 yards of total offense with four scores, passing for 381 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-35 accuracy along with adding a pair of scoring runs. With nine different players on the receiving end of Mackey aerials, sophomore Stephon Johnson from Gulfport led the way with seven grabs for 94 yards.
Head coach Buddy Stephens’ 3-1 EMCC Lions, 1-0 in North Division play, take to the road for their next pair of Thursday games against divisional foes Northwest Mississippi (Sept. 24) and Coahoma (Oct. 1), before returning home for their 2009 Homecoming contest against Northeast Mississippi on Saturday, Oct. 10.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 September 2009 )|
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