Mississippi Gulf Coast came out early and tried some trickery against No. 3 East Mississippi. None of it worked, but it nearly didn’t matter.
The Bulldogs pushed the North Division champions to the brink, falling 27-24 in the MACJC playoffs Saturday at Sullivan-Windham Field.
“We had some things we came out with early and took some shots,” Gulf Coast coach Chad Huff said. “This football team knew we were coming to win this game. We weren’t going to be intimidated.”
The Bulldogs (5-5) went on a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of third quarter to take a 24-17 lead over the Lions (9-1).
Joshua Rowland (5-10, 190, So., Madison Central/Madison) made a 37-yard field goal, and Reggio Dean (5-10, 215, So., Northeast Jones/Laurel) intercepted a deflected pass three plays from scrimmage later.
That set up Gulf Coast at the East Mississippi 17. Ge'Vonte Jones (5-11, 175, So., Charleston/Charleston) punched it in from 7 yards out two plays later.
Jones finished with 89 yards on 21 carries.
EMCC rallied in the fourth, however. They had an apparent touchdown called back for holding and settled for a field goal with 14:25 left to make it a 24-20 lead.
The Lions took the lead back on the next possession on a 10-yard run by Vijay Miller with 9:02 left.
Gulf Coast got the ball back one last time with just under 2 minutes left, but fumbled and EMCC ran out the clock.
“There were two minutes left and we had a chance to drive it down there and kick a field goal to tie it,” Huff said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Larry Sisson (6-0, 210, So., Resurrection/Pascagoula) completed 17 of 29 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran 10 times for 42 yards.
Jones had 21 rushes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Lester Wells (6-0, 180, So., Adams County Christian/Natchez) had 12 receptions for 149 yards.
The Bulldogs defense had a Ty Peters fumble recovery in addition to the interception, as the teams tied in the turnover battle.
“The defense battled, fought and scratched and held a good football team to 27 points in their house,” Huff said. “I can’t say enough about the effort.”
The Bulldogs and Lions were within 10 yards of total offense, with Gulf Coast finishing with 394 yards.
Down 7-0 early after a failed onside kick gave the Lions a short field, Gulf Coast had a chance to tie it late in the first half, but couldn’t punch it in.
“We had our chances early on,” Huff said. “We went for it on fourth down in the red zone from the 1. You have to be able to get those in in games like this.”
They would eventually tie it on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Sisson to Quentin Frazier (6-0, 210, Fr., Hernando/Hernando). Frazier would score on a 6-yard run in the second quarter to tie the game at 14.
EMCC added a field goal in the final minute of the half for a 17-14 lead.
“This football team has grown over the last night weeks,” Huff said. “The record is an indicator of what kind of football teams we’ve got. We definitely have one of the best football teams out there. I think we showed that today.”