No. 6 EMCC Lions overcome turnovers
SCOOBA – The sixth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College overcame seven turnovers and came back from their first deficit of the year with 20 unanswered fourth-quarter points to claim a 34-19 Homecoming win over Northeast Mississippi during Saturday’s MACCC North Division football action played at Sullivan-Windham Field.
Following an opening 50-yard kickoff return to midfield by EMCC’s Zach Patterson, the Lions marched 50 yards on eight plays to get on the scoreboard first with Zias Perryman’s 3-yard scoring run at the 12:17 mark.
However, on the home team’s next possession is when the turnover bug began to bite. Jamari Jones’ pass was picked off deep in EMCC territory by Northeast’s Tony Washington, who returned it 21 yards for the score. The point-after-touchdown attempt failed and kept the score at 7-6 with 7:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
A three-and-out by the Lions was then followed by a nine-play, 42-yard drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by the Tigers’ John Ellis Murrah at the 2:35 mark. The successful kick put the visitors on top, 9-7, and gave EMCC its first deficit of the 2021 season.
The scoreless second quarter was marred by more EMCC miscues. First, a six-play, 56-yard drive was disrupted when Jones’ completed pass to Jontarius Henderson was stripped and recovered by Northeast at its own 17-yard line toward the end of the first quarter. The Tigers’ resulting 12-play drive stalled at the Lions’ 30-yard line.
After the two teams traded three-and-out possessions later in the quarter, another of Jones’ completed passes was jarred loose from Tommie Johnson and recovered by the Tigers near midfield. EMCC’s defense responded again and kept Northeast from reaching the red zone.
As the first half was winding down, the Lions looked to be in good shape to possibly reclaim the lead going into the locker room. However, Jones’ second of four interceptions on the day was picked off near the goal line on the half’s final play to keep the score at 9-7.
Coming out of the intermission, the second half got started with another fumbled reception by the Lions on their first play from scrimmage. The Tigers capitalized on EMCC’s fifth turnover of the game by cashing in on Murrah’s 27-yard field goal to extend their lead to 12-7 with 9:32 left in the quarter.
The two teams then exchanged touchdowns to complete the third-quarter scoring. After the Lions responded with a seven-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by Amariyon Howard’s 1-yard scoring burst at the 6:46 mark, Northeast answered with a penalty-riddled, 74-yard scoring drive that put the visitors back on top, 19-14, with 2:10 left on JT Moore’s 2-yard keeper.
Following Jones’ third interception of the afternoon coming late in the third quarter, the Lions’ heralded defensive unit stepped up and completely changed the momentum of the game as the fourth quarter got underway. With Northeast knocking on the door at EMCC’s 5-yard line, Keyshawn Lawrence shot the gap untouched and met Gary Banks II in the backfield for a 4-yard loss on a third-down play. The 26-yard field goal attempt was then blocked by Kel Williams to give the Lions the spark they needed.
From that turning point at the 12:14 mark, the rejuvenated Lions then scored three unanswered touchdowns during the next six minutes to complete the comeback and put away the game. First, the ensuing seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive following the blocked kick resulted in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Kevin Barnett at the 9:53 mark that put EMCC back on top for good, 20-19, despite an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.
A minute later during Northeast’s next possession, the Lions’ ball-hawking defensive secondary rose to the occasion when Cam McCullum’s 34-yard interception return to the right front pylon extended the lead to 27-19 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game.
EMCC then benefitted from another NEMCC miscue when Trey Laing fell on a mishandled handoff following a high snap. Five plays later, Perryman’s 3-yard scoring run at the 6:18 mark capped the game’s scoring the same way it started with the Laurel product punching it in for his team-leading sixth rushing touchdown of the year.
On the heels of his career-high, 129-yard rushing effort last week at Northwest, Perryman hit the century mark on the ground for the second straight week with 101 rushing yards and two scores on 20 carries against Northeast.
Though saddled with four interceptions on the day, Jones managed to throw for 211 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-26 passing. The sophomore signal-caller out of Northwest Rankin High School also ran for 83 yards on eight attempts.
Jones’ top targets on the afternoon were Duke Miller and Barnett with four catches apiece for 88 and 47 receiving yards, respectively.
Coach Buddy Stephens’ 6-0 EMCC Lions (4-0 in MACCC North) will stay at home and continue division play during a short week by playing host to the Coahoma Tigers on Thursday (Oct. 14). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.