|No. 10 East Mississippi stunned 47-46 by No. 15 Copiah-Lincoln in MACJC State Semifinals|
SCOOBA – A 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Joe Craig Jr. in the game’s closing seconds lifted 15th-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College to a stunning 47-46 road victory over 10th-ranked East Mississippi Community College in Saturday’s semifinals of the MACJC State Football Playoffs held at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
The game-deciding play capped a final stretch that saw the lead change three times over the final 2:47 of the contest. After taking their first lead of the game with 2:51 left in the first half, the Lions maintained their advantage until the final three minutes of play. That’s when EMCC’s special teams’ miscues began to turn costly for the reigning state and national champions. Following an EMCC three-and-out possession and the Lions still nursing a precarious 40-35 lead, punter Hayden Lewis was the recipient of a bad snap from center that resulted in the Wolfpack taking over at EMCC’s 22-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Co-Lin running back Darius Guy bolted up the middle, over some would-be Lion tacklers and into the end zone. The two-point conversion attempt was intercepted in the end zone to keep the score at 41-40 in favor of the visitors.
With 2:47 remaining on the game clock, the Lions regrouped to put together a 75-yard scoring drive in 10 plays that resulted in freshman quarterback Quez Johnson barreling over the goal line from 10 yards out with just 21.6 ticks left on the clock. EMCC’s two-point conversion try via the air also failed to make it 46-41. On the ensuing kickoff, Co-Lin’s Craig Jr., who opened the game’s scoring with an 80-yard touchdown reception, took Hunter Raines’ kick at the 10-yard line and sped down the right sideline 90 yards to give the Wolfpack the go-ahead score. A third straight two-point conversion attempt on a pass play did not work to account for the final outcome.
The Lions had one last desperation attempt to pull off a miracle finish for themselves following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the visitors for running onto the field following the dramatic kickoff return. LeDarious Clark’s resulting 35-yard runback gave EMCC one final pass play from Co-Lin’s 40-yard line. However, Johnson’s heave was batted down at the goal line to preserve the win and send the Wolfpack to next Saturday’s MACJC State Championship Game in Perkinston, where they will take on seventh-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Bulldogs beat No. 9 Northwest Mississippi, 43-17, in Saturday’s other MACJC semifinal-round contest.
The Lions, who knocked off Gulf Coast in Scooba to claim last year’s state football championship, opened defense of their title by engaging in an efficient 16-play drive that ultimately stalled at the 5-yard line. EMCC didn’t get anything out of the drive as Morgan Rhodes’ 22-yard field-goal attempt misfired. Adding insult to injury on the game’s next play from scrimmage, Co-Lin’s Craig Jr. began his assault on the Lions by hauling in Chandler Rogers’ pass over the middle and out-running defenders to pay dirt for an 80-yard scoring play that put the Wolfpack on the scoreboard first at the 9:38 mark.
EMCC struck back quickly on its next play from scrimmage. Johnson found Nick Brassell on a 52-yard pass play that led to an eventual 10-yard scoring aerial from Johnson to Corey Smith with 6:11 left in the first quarter. The game’s lone tie didn’t last long, as Darius Guy’s 38-yard touchdown gallop capped a brief five-play drive that put the visitors back on top 14-7 with 3:39 remaining in the period. Rhodes added a 28-yard field goal within the final minute of the quarter to cut the Lions’ deficit to 14-10.
The Lions shut out Co-Lin during the second quarter, while scoring twice themselves to take the lead for the first time heading into intermission. Frank Richardson’s second interception of the year set up EMCC’s go-ahead score. Following a 28-yard completion from Johnson to Martay Mattox, Johnson subsequently picked up his 11th rushing touchdown of the year from two yards out. Rhodes’ point-after-touchdown try was blocked, but the Lions still had their initial lead of the contest at 16-14. After the EMCC defense forced a three-and-out, Rhodes knocked through a 29-yard field goal as the halftime horn sounded to give the home team the 19-14 advantage.
Coming out of the break, East Mississippi’s defense set up the Lions’ fourth straight unanswered score of the contest. Jason Yarbor returned his fifth interception of the year to Co-Lin’s 14-yard line. A pass interference call paved the way for successive 1-yard bursts by Xavier Hogan that resulted in the first of three 12-point leads EMCC would enjoy during the second stanza.
The Lions’ initial two-score lead of the game would only last just over a minute, as the Wolfpack promptly answered by moving 75 yards on just three plays to cut into the lead. Capping the quick-strike possession was a 52-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to a streaking Darren Anderson down the left sideline. A successful PAT by Co-Lin’s Nolan Long trimmed EMCC’s lead to 26-21 with 10:42 left in the third quarter.
The two teams would trade touchdowns four more times in the contest to set up the late-game scoring frenzy. The Lions rounded out the third-quarter scoring with Johnson’s 10-yard scoring pass to Brassell, giving the home team another 12-point cushion (33-21) at the 7:07 mark.
Brassell, an Ole Miss transfer by way of South Panola High School, finished the day with season-best marks of 12 catches for 185 receiving yards. Johnson, a Starkville High School product, completed 40-of-57 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a team-high 88 rushing yards and two more scores on 22 rushing attempts.
The Lions’ initial possession of the final period was halted at Co-Lin’s 18-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Wolfpack to again pull back to within five points. Rogers promptly hit receiver Casey Gladney on consecutive pass plays of 15 and 67 yards to cut the deficit to 33-28 at the 12:44 mark.
EMCC (8-2) and Co-Lin (8-2) matched touchdowns once again to set the stage for the climactic ending. Rodriguez Moore’s 4-yard scoring run around right end at the 8:45 mark was answered by a 1-yard touchdown toss from Rogers to Christian Keene to make it 40-35 with 5:12 remaining in the thriller.
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 November 2012 )|
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