Monday, September 28, 2015

Furious Comeback Falls Short as No. 19 East Central Falls to No. 1 Co-Lin 31-28

A furious second half comeback by the East Central Community College Warriors fell short as the No. 1 ranked Copiah-Lincoln Wolfpack escaped Bailey Stadium on the Decatur campus Thursday, Sept. 24, with a hard-fought 31-28 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges South Division victory.

The Warriors had driven inside the Co-Lin 20-yard line with under two minutes remaining in the game, trailing 31-28, when sophomore wide receiver Devin McIntosh out of Amory High School had the ball jarred loose and the Wolfpack recovered on their own 13 yard line to preserve the victory.

The game was played before a standing room only crowd as East Central hosted its annual “Be Our Guest” night for local high school students.

East Central fell to 3-2 overall on the season. The Warriors are now 0-2 in MACJC South Division play. Copiah-Lincoln improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the South Division.

In addition to the drama in the final minutes, an early second quarter fumble that resulted in a Co-Lin touchdown, and a mishandled punt, missed field goal, and failed fourth down conversion on the Co-Lin 22 in the second half were turning points in the East Central loss.

“I think the mistakes are what cost us the game,” said East Central Head Coach Ken Karcher. “We
played right with them. We had opportunities, and when you make those mistakes, they’re going to beat you. We’ll keep getting better, and I think our young men are showing we can play with anybody in this league.

“They’re a good football team, and they’re well coached. The first half they moved the ball, but the second half I don’t think they really did much. They’re a good a team, and good teams are going to move the ball at times.”

Co-Lin scored on its first three offensive possessions in the first half and added a 75-yard fumble return to jump out to a 24-14 halftime lead.

The Wolfpack wasted little time getting on the scoreboard to start the game. Co-Lin took the opening kickoff and drove 82 yards in 16 plays to the East Central nine-yard line before settling for a 26-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Greg Nickles. With 7:09 to go in the first quarter, Co-Lin led 3-0.

Following an East Central punt, the visitors were on the move again. Co-Lin drove 68 yards in 10 plays culminating in a two-yard touchdown plunge by sophomore running back Lakedric Lee. The point after by Nickles put the Wolfpack up 10-0 after one quarter of play.

It appeared the Warriors might get back into the game on their next drive. East Central had moved to the Co-Lin 27 yard line, when freshman running back Tredarian Gamble fumbled and Co-Lin’s Lashard Durr scooped up the ball and raced 75 yards untouched for the touchdown. The point after kick was good again, and the Wolfpack led 17-0 early in the second quarter.

On the ensuing Co-Lin kickoff, East Central quickly moved down the field for its first score of the night. The Warriors drove 77 yards in just five plays with Gamble, a product of Oxford High School (Ala.), scoring from the two. The extra point by freshman kicker Aaron Garrett of Meridian High School closed the gap to 17-7.

The Warriors immediately went back on offense at their own 49-yard line after a successful onside kick. Seven plays later, Gamble was in the end zone again, this time from six yards out. Garrett’s point after was good, and East Central had pulled to within 17-14 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. The key play of the drive was a 45-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Jesse Hosket of French Camp High School to freshman tight end of Kalen Meggs of Richland that put the ball on the Wolfpack 10-yard line.

The Wolfpack would extend their lead back to 10 with 3:23 left in the half on a four-yard run by Lee. The nine-play drive covered 60 yards. Nickles PAT put Co-Lin up 24-14 after two quarters of play.

Gamble scored his third touchdown of the game on East Central’s first drive of the third quarter. The Warriors took the opening kick off of the second half and drove 68 yards in 10 plays, with Gamble bulling over from the four. Garrett’s kick was true and the Co-Lin lead was cut to 24-21.

East Central was poised to get ball right back with a chance to take the lead, but a mishandled punt was recovered by Co-Lin at the Warrior 37. Just four plays later, the Wolfpack was in the end zone again, this time on a 19-yard pass from freshman quarterback Garrett Kruzcek to sophomore wide receiver Dayall Harris. After the PAT, Co-Lin led 31-21.

Just minutes later, Co-Lin would return the favor, mishandling an East Central punt with the Warriors recovering at the Wolfpack 20-yard line. A Garrett 32-yard field goal attempt was wide right, and the score remained 31-21, still in the third quarter.

The Warriors drove to the Co-Lin 22 early in the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth and one.

The East Central defense stiffened on the next Wolfpack possession and forced a Co-Lin punt. Three plays later, Hosket hit a wide open Jordan Thomas on a 60-yard scoring toss. The sophomore tight end out of Sumrall High School caught the ball at about the 15, shook off a Co-Lin defender and found the end zone. Garrett’s kick pulled East Central to within 31-28.

Co-Lin lost 14 yards on its next possession, thanks in part to a Jadarius Ceasar sack of Kruzcek. The sophomore defensive end out of Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa dropped the Co-Lin signal caller for a seven-yard loss. The Wolfpack were forced to punt from their own end zone giving East Central good field position at midfield with 5:28 left in the game.

The Warriors drove to the Wolfpack 22 yard line in the final two minutes of the contest. Hosket hit McIntosh for what appeared to be a first down at the Co-Lin 13, before he was hit hard and lost the football.

“Our kids just kept believing,” said Karcher. “We told them all week long it was going to be a fourth-quarter game. I thought it would go into overtime, actually, and we were real close to that happening.”

East Central finished with 435 yards total offense, while Co-Lin managed just 309. Hosket was 13 of
20 passing for 253 yards. Thomas had two catches for 85 yards and the touchdown. McIntosh had five receptions for 64 yards. On the ground, Gamble had 137 yards rushing on 23 carries and three touchdowns.

East Central will host the Hinds Community College Eagles in another South Division contest next Thursday, Oct. 1. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. in Bailey Stadium on the Decatur campus.

“It’s going to hurt a little bit for about 24 hours,” Karcher said. “As I told the guys, we have Hinds next week, and this thing isn’t over. I think you’ll see us fighting until the end to make the playoffs.”

East Central will honor the sophomore football players in ceremonies prior to the game against Hinds. It also will be Military Veterans and First Responders Appreciation Night. All veterans, first responders and their families will be admitted free to the game, invited to participate in the Warrior Club Tailgate, and be recognized during the game.

The game can be heard on WKOZ 98.3 “The Groove” or via audio stream at Live streaming video with audio can be found at www.eccc.eduor'