Sept. 8 was not Gulf Coast’s best game of the season. Far from it.
Hosting East Mississippi in the second game of the season, the Bulldogs turned the ball over four times in a 45-7 defeat at A.L. May Memorial Stadium in Perkinston.
MGCCC coach Chad Huff is hoping his team looks much different this time around when the Bulldogs and Lions clash at 2 p.m. Saturday in Scooba to open the MACJC playoffs.
“We’re a much better football team than we were seven weeks ago,” he said. “That’s the confidence there, knowing when we played them the first time we weren’t anywhere near where we are now.”
The Bulldogs (5-4) needed help from East Central to qualify for the playoffs after losing their finale at Jones County last week, but Huff said the latest version of the Bulldogs is much improved.
“We put ourselves in this situation,” Huff said. “It’s a different path than we wanted to take but it’s a good path no matter how you get there. The kids are excited and up for the challenge. They know what’s at stake.”
Gulf Coast, which started the season 1-3 with losses to Itawamba, EMCC and East Central, rebounded to win four of its last five games for the second seed in the MACJC South.
Former Resurrection quarterback Larry Sisson has filled in more than admirably for Kalen Whitlow, who was injured toward the end of the season. Sisson completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 757 yards and four touchdowns.
Lester Wells has been Sisson’s go-to target and leads MGCCC with 33 receptions for 328 yards. He has three touchdown catches. Brandon Martin has four scores along with 23 catches for 327 yards.
Southern Miss commit T’Rod Daniels leads Gulf Coast with 765 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and Ge’Vonte Jones has rushed for 532.
Justin Stewart ended up leading Gulf Coast with 65 tackles, one ahead of defensive lineman and uber-recruit Isaiah Buggs.
The No. 3 Lions (8-1) cut through the MACJC this season, winning eight in a row after narrowly losing the opener with a shell of its roster due to 2015 suspensions that carried over.
Former Florida State quarterback DeAndre Johnson proved to be one of the more dangerous players in the league, passing for 2,110 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 563 yards and four scores.
“We have to contain him and not give them anything down the field cheap,” Huff said.
Johnson had plenty of targets, with five receivers recording at least 20 catches.
On the ground, Jacquez Horsley, Isaiah Wright and Tyrell Price have all been reliable, rushing for 428, 389 and 325 yards. The trio has combined for 16 touchdowns.
Former Texas Tech linebacker Dakota Allen is the unquestioned leader of East Mississippi’s defense with 90 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five pass breakups.
Winning at East Mississippi won’t be easy. The Lions are 31-1 at home since Sullivan-Windham Field opened in 2011.
Gulf Coast leads the series 31-27-4, but EMCC has won the last five meetings.
Who: Gulf Coast at East Mississippi
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Radio: 103.1 FM