|No. 16 EMCC Lions debut new stadium, open new season with 34-30 win over No. 2 Gulf Coast|
SCOOBA – The 16th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College successfully opened their new Sullivan-Windham Field with a 34-30 home victory over second-ranked and reigning MACJC state champion Mississippi Gulf Coast Thursday night on the Scooba campus.
Pitting the past two state junior college football champions in front of an EMCC home crowd in excess of 4,000 spectators, the contest resulted in the same margin of victory (four points) and ended in the same fashion (game-ending interception by the EMCC defense) as the Lions’ memorable 75-71 home triumph over the Bulldogs in the 2009 MACJC state championship contest.
Thursday’s season opener for both teams definitely favored the home team for much of the opening half of play. Gulf Coast took the opening drive to the brink of the red zone before EMCC sophomore cornerback Jeremy Cannon, of West Point, stripped Bulldog quarterback Raymond Cotton of the ball and ran it back 50 yards to the 30-yard line. Six plays later, Lion freshman quarterback Bo Wallace took it in from 7 yards out to put East Mississippi on top 7-0 after Taylor Walker’s successful point-after-touchdown with 10:24 remaining in the opening quarter.
Following an exchange of possessions, the Lions picked off their first of four MGCCC aerials on the night, as sophomore linebacker JaMichael Myles intercepted Cotton’s pass in the red zone. EMCC proceeded to take advantage of the miscue by marching 83 yards in 15 plays to make it 14-0 at the start of the second period. Wallace, a transfer from Arkansas State University, found Meridian’s Hamp Glover with a 7-yard scoring pass with 14:48 left in the half.
The visitors from Perkinston paid the price for yet another turnover on their next possession, with EMCC freshman safety Justin Cox, of West Point, hauling in his first of three interceptions in his collegiate debut. Wallace went 6-of-7 for 65 yards through the air during the Lions’ resulting drive, culminating with a 15-yard scoring strike to freshman receiver Alventray Tarleton in the left corner of the end zone. Despite a muffed PAT attempt, the home team had mounted a 20-0 advantage with 10:11 remaining in the opening half of play.
The momentum of the contest then swung in favor of the Bulldogs during the final five minutes of the half. Beginning with a faked 32-yard field-goal attempt in which the Lions were called for pass interference, Gulf Coast rolled up three straight scores while EMCC faltered with consecutive three-and-out possessions down the stretch. After Cotton’s 2-yard scamper put the visitors on the board at the 5:06 mark, James Gillum followed with a 10-yard scoring run three minutes later. However, Taylor Pontius’ PAT was no good. Aided by a sizeable punt return following the Lions’ second straight empty possession, MGCCC ended the first-half scoring with 23.4 seconds left by knotting the score at 20-20 on Cotton’s 2-yard toss to tight end Cade Amacker.
East Mississippi’s offense got back on track to begin the second half, as the Lions drove 76 yards on just seven plays, including consecutive passing plays of 29 and 40 yards to Glover and Rodney Davis, respectively, to move back in front. Wallace scored on a 2-yard keeper to the right pylon for a 27-20 advantage with 12:40 left in the third quarter.
Gulf Coast answered by methodically moving 58 yards on a dozen plays to make it 27-27 on Cotton’s 1-yard keeper at the 8:07 mark. The two teams then traded turnovers midway through the quarter before Wallace again took to the air on the Lions’ ensuing possession. The Pulaski, Tenn., native connected on 4-of-5 aerials for 59 yards, highlighted by his 24-yard hook-up with Davis in the end zone to put EMCC on top to stay at 34-27 with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
Davis, a sophomore from Millbrook, Ala., finished the night with five catches for a team-most 109 receiving yards. In his collegiate debut after redshirting last season, Wallace completed the evening with 383 passing yards on 30-of-47 accuracy while accounting for all five EMCC touchdowns.
The Bulldogs appeared set to answer the bell once again after benefitting from a dead ball penalty on the resulting kickoff and starting their drive near midfield. However, two plays after Cotton’s 35-yard scamper put Gulf Coast in the red zone, Cox came up with his second pick of the night. The visitors got a temporary reprieve when Walker’s 25-yard field-goal try misfired early in the final period.
In the only scoring of the final quarter, MGCCC had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Pontius that cut the deficit to 34-30 with 7:09 remaining after the Bulldogs were flagged for three false-start penalties during a lengthy, time-consuming drive.
An eventful final seven minutes began with a fumble by EMCC on the ensuing kickoff, followed by an apparent 70-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Rodriguez Moore that was called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty by the Lions. Later in the possession, a roughing-the-punter miscue by the visitors prolonged EMCC’s drive across midfield. However, the Lions lost their third fumble of the night on the next play.
Needing a touchdown to move ahead, Gulf Coast took over possession with 1:35 left on the game clock. After moving across midfield, the Bulldogs were temporarily halted following a combo sack by the EMCC tandem of Stokes Wells and Ricky Holt. With under a minute left to play, an apparent interception by Cox was nullified due to defensive holding called on the Lions. It didn’t take long for Cox to complete his hat-trick and preserve the Lions’ season-opening triumph, however, as the former Mississippi State signee picked off his third interception of the night in the right corner of the end zone with just 15 ticks remaining.
Coach Buddy Stephens’ 1-0 EMCC Lions will take to the road for their next two contests, traveling to Raymond to meet Hinds Community College on Thursday (Sept. 8) before opening up MACJC North Division play at reigning division champion Northwest Mississippi the following week (Thursday, Sept. 15).
|Last Updated ( Friday, 02 September 2011 )|
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