Well, that escalated quickly.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College came alive in the second half Thursday night, scoring 41 unanswered points to rally past visiting East Central 48-25 at A.L. May Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldog offense looked helpless for much of the first half, falling behind 13-3 after the first two quarters.
Gulf Coast found its way almost immediately in the second half, however, scoring three times in the opening minutes to quickly put the Warriors (1-3) away.
“I asked them to figure out who they wanted to be. I told them whatever the results are tonight, they’re going to have to live with them for the rest of their lives,” Gulf Coast Chad Huff said of his motivational halftime speech. “... I’m proud of the guys. They came out in the second half and played how they’re capable of playing.”
Former Gautier standout Deandre Torrey broke free for runs of 29, 7 and 26 during MGCCC’s opening drive of the second half to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Torrance Gibson.
On the very next ECCC possession, former LSU defensive back Saivion Smith plucked a tipped ball and returned it about 44 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs (3-1) ahead 17-13.
“I saw the ball going a little high and broke on it. Just instincts,” Smith said. “I was going in to make the tackle and the ball deflected up; ended up right in my hands.”
Smith’s pick-six gave the Bulldogs a shot in the arm and the home team never looked back.
By the end of the third quarter, Gulf Coast had built a 38-13 advantage with another 1-yard run by Gibson and touchdown passes of 56 and 48 to Zach Farrar, his first scores since transferring from Oklahoma.
“We’ve been telling Zach to keep coming, keep working. Good things come to those who continue to grind it out and stay focused,” Huff said. “He had a good week this week and it showed.
“If you do what you’re supposed to do (in practice) you’ll have opportunities to make plays.”
Gibson ended up completing 12 of 19 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
“He did a good job with the intermediate passes as well as the down-the-field throws,” Huff said.
Former Stone High kicker Mason Hunt added to Gulf Coast’s lead early in the fourth frame with a 33-yard field goal.
Pascagoula’s Javarous Walker tacked on a 1-yard touchdown with 8:22 remaining to push Gulf Coast’s advantage to 48-19.
East Central chewed up clock in the first half with long, grinding drives.
ECCC opened the scoring on its first drive with a 14-play, 73-yard drive that was punctuated with a 2-yard touchdown by Mikell Daniels.
The Warriors extended their lead to 13-0 at 8:14 of the second quarter with another 2-yard score by Daniels.
Gulf Coast went on to piece together its first successful drive of the game — perhaps foreshadowing the second half. The Bulldogs marched 29 yards on 11 plays but had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Hunt.
East Central added late scores on a 1-yard run by Antonio Gibson and a 62-yard pass from backup Jacob Carter to Kevontaye Caston to round out the night’s scoring.
Torrey and former Stone High standout Terrion Avery didn’t find the end zone Thursday, but they gashed ECCC at times in the second half to set up Gibson’s scores.
Torrey finished with 108 yards on 10 carries while Avery collected 61 yards on eight carries.
“They do a good job of seeing it and getting north-south quickly,” Huff said. “They don’t dance too much. They see it, attack and get north-south. Explosive plays come that way.”
ECCC quarterback Mario Asagunia completed 11 of 23 passes for 126 yards. Daniels led the Warriors with 61 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Gulf Coast returns to action next Thursday at Hinds. ECCC hosts Copiah-Lincoln. Both kickoffs are at 6:30 p.m.