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Explosive 51-point third quarter propels No. 2 EMCC to 79-7 triumph over Northwest Mississippi in road finale
 October 19, 2013

SENATOBIA – The second-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College put up 51 points on the scoreboard in the third quarter alone in rolling to a 79-7 MACJC North Division road victory over Northwest Mississippi Community College Thursday night at Bobby Franklin Field.
With the victory in their final road action of the regular season, head coach Buddy Stephens’ 8-0 EMCC Lions have secured their sixth consecutive berth in the upcoming MACJC State Playoffs (Nov. 2 & 9).  East Mississippi, 5-0 within the division, will conclude regular-season action by playing host to division foe Itawamba Community College on Thursday (Oct. 24) to decide the MACJC North Division’s No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs.  The Lions are two-time reigning MACJC North Division champions and have claimed the regular-season division title four times in the last five years under Stephens’ guidance, including MACJC state titles in 2011 and 2009.

Despite a somewhat sluggish start on both sides of the ball, the Lions grabbed an early 7-0 lead on Dontreal Pruitt’s 8-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Bates with 7:22 remaining in the first period.  Early in the second quarter, the home-standing Rangers answered by becoming the first opponent this season to score in the first half against EMCC.  Following a tipped pass interception by Northwest’s Joshua Barry – just Pruitt’s third interception thrown on the year – NWCC quarterback Karsten Miller capped a seven-play, 55-yard drive by running it in from a yard out at the 11:36 mark.

Spurred by the running of sophomore back Lakenderic Thomas, with bursts of 25 and 22 yards on the drive, the visitors reclaimed the lead, 14-7, with Pruitt and Bates hooking up again on a 5-yard scoring connection with 6:19 left in the half.  To their credit, the Rangers responded admirably on their ensuing possession and put themselves in position to tie up the game again.  Aided by a Miller-to-D’Montrise Swinney 52-yard gain down the right sideline, Northwest had a first-and-goal opportunity from the 2-yard line following a pass interference penalty called on the Lions.  However, the momentum of the contest took a critical turn when Miller and running back Damian Baker misconnected on a fumbled handoff that was recovered by EMCC’s D.J. Jones.

Capitalizing on the crucial Northwest miscue, Thomas again keyed the Lions’ offensive surge with a 67-yard rumble up the middle of the field to the 5-yard line.  Todd Mays took the next snap and cruised five yards untouched into the end zone to make it 21-7 with 3:10 left until intermission.  Two minutes later following another stop by EMCC’s stellar defensive squad, Pruitt found Antoinne Adkins on the right sideline for a 54-yard, catch-and-run scoring strike with 57 seconds remaining to increase the margin to 28-7 by the halftime break.

Receiving the opening kickoff for the second half, the Lions went 64 yards on seven plays to set the stage for their 51-point explosion in the third quarter.  Pruitt found his former Laurel High School teammate Justin Mack for a 33-yard scoring toss at the 12:25 mark to make it 34-7 after the failed point-after-touchdown kick conversion.

That’s when EMCC’s dominant defensive unit took over the contest and essentially put the game away early in the second half.  Back-to-back interceptions by freshman linebackers Demetrius Cain and Justin Lucas were turned into a 13-yard touchdown reception by Brandon Acker and a 3-yard scoring rush by Mays – his team-leading 13th of the season – to bump up the margin to 49-7 following Mays’ two-point conversion run on the latter score.         

A subsequent three-and-out possession by Northwest was keyed by successive sacks from D.J. Pettway and Jimmie Gipson III.  J.T. Tolbert’s 38-yard punt return to the 1-yard line then set up Thomas’ ninth rushing touchdown of the year with 8:23 remaining in the third quarter.  Another three-and-out was forced by the Lions, and the resulting punt was blocked by Quan Latham and ultimately recovered at the 2-yard line.  Though freshman running back Preston Baker fumbled near the goal line on the next series, EMCC’s stopper squad made amends by tackling Northwest’s Baker in the end zone for a safety to push the advantage to 58-7 with 4:55 still left in the quarter.

In scoring touchdowns on seven of their eight third-quarter possessions, each of EMCC’s last seven drives of the period consisted of three plays or less and took up less than a minute apiece on the game clock.  Now scoring an average of 66.3 points per game on the year, the Lions’ 79 points against Northwest trail only the 90-point outburst they compiled last month against Coahoma on the school’s all-time, single-game scoring chart.

Finishing 23-of-38 for the game with 348 passing yards, Pruitt matched his career high of seven touchdown tosses with scoring aerials of 58 yards to Kameron Myers and 27 yards to Acker late in the third quarter.  With a 10-minute running clock being used during the final period, Mays capped East Mississippi’s 51-point quarter and ultimately closed out the game’s scoring by hitting Jorrell Thurmon with a 23-yard touchdown pass with just 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Thomas, a product of West Point High School, finished with a career-high 200 rushing yards, including 190 in the first half, on just 11 carries.  With nine different receivers hauling in passes for the Lions, Adkins, a former Meridian High School standout, led the way with eight catches for 112 yards.

For the second straight game defensively, the Lions held the opposition to negative rushing yards.  On the heels of limiting Northeast Mississippi to -41 net rushing yards on 38 carries in last week’s 59-0 win, EMCC stymied Northwest’s ground game to the tune of -31 net rushing yards on 24 attempts.          

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