EMCC falls to Northwest in top 10 showdown


In a top-10 gridiron battle with possible postseason playoff implications, the eighth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College fell victim to fourth-ranked Northwest Mississippi’s balanced offensive attack in dropping a 38-21 decision to the visiting Rangers during Thursday’s MACCC North Division action played at Sullivan-Windham Field. 

In falling at home for just the fourth time in 56 games played since their current football facility opened in advance of the program’s first national championship season (2011), the home-standing Lions were outgained, 519-289, in total offense yards by Northwest. Along with totaling 301 net rushing yards, including a pair of 100-yard rushers in Jamarien Bracey (159) and Cayden Betts (102), the Rangers also had for 218 passing yards on the night. 

Coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC Lions (3-2 overall and 1-1 in MACCC North) will look to bounce back today (Thursday) by welcoming the Coahoma Tigers to the Scooba campus. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field. 

Following a scoreless opening quarter of play, the visitors got on the scoreboard first by capping an 11-play, 85-yard drive with Bracey’s 3-yard scoring run at the 12:39 mark of the second quarter. 

After the point-after-touchdown kick was missed, the Lions answered on their next possession. Mike McGowan finished off a seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive with a 41-yard touchdown run on a third-and-one play, while Cole Arthur’s made PAT put EMCC on top, 7-6, with 10:03 remaining in the half. 

The Rangers led 13-7 at the half thanks to a 2-yard touchdown pass from Rev Hefley to even Diaz with 34 seconds left in second quarter. 

The high-scoring third quarter featured two touchdowns by both teams. Northwest got things started with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated with Hefley’s 31-yard scoring strike to D.T. Sheffield at the 11:45 mark to make it a 20-7 contest. 

The Lions responded against the Rangers by reaching the end zone twice within a four-minute span to take a one-point lead late in the third quarter. The first score came one a third-and-seven play, when Eli Anderson and Duke Miller capped a nine-play, 67-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown connection at the 8:02 mark that narrowed the margin to 20-14. 

The Lions’ defensive unit then stepped up to seemingly turn the tide in favor of the home team. First, EMCC’s Laurence Sullivan Jr. stepped in front of a Hefley pass and returned it 58 yards to the end zone for his second interception of the year. Arthur’s successful PAT put the Lions on top, 21-20, with 4:19 left in the quarter. 

Perhaps the defining moment of the contest came during Northwest’s next possession. Hefley was picked off by EMCC linebacker Rodney Groce, Jr., who returned the interception to around midfield before getting stripped of the ball by Northwest with the Rangers recovering. The visitors promptly went 45 yards on five plays to score on a 9-yard touchdown run by Betts. They promptly added a two-point conversion through the air at the 1:27 mark to grab back the lead (28-21) and regain the game’s momentum. 

Northwest went up 35-21 with 10:17 left in the game when Bracey score on an 8-yard run. 

Following a turnover on downs by the Lions, Northwest proceeded to take seven minutes off the game clock by keeping the ball on the ground for 11 consecutive running plays before settling for Eli Hamlin’s 19-yard field goal at the 1:52 mark for the game’s final score. 

Statistically for the Lions against Northwest, Anderson finished the game with 19-of-26 passing for 173 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions after totaling 793 passing and eight touchdowns over the previous two weeks combined. His top target on the night was Miller with seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. 

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