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Interception: Northeast Mississippi Community College defensive back Scott Norphlet (28) of Oxford picks off a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College pass during the Tigers and Bulldogs National Junior College Athletic Association football game at Tiger Stadium in Booneville, Miss., on Thursday, September 9.

BOONEVILLE, Miss. - Scott Norphlet has a knack for making big plays during the first home game of a new season for the Northeast Mississippi Community College football team.

Norphlet had a pick-six to start a run of 16 unanswered points by the Tigers. However, a pair of fourth quarter field goals lifted Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to an 18-16 win over Northeast on Thursday, September 9 at Tiger Stadium.

The Bulldogs were pinned at their own one-yard line after a tackle for loss by Deidrick Orange when Norphlet grabbed his interception on a third down play. He raced 16 yards into the end zone untouched to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 12-7 early in the second period.

It was the second touchdown of Norphlet’s career at Northeast. His first was a fumble recovery in the end zone on a muffed punt during the Tigers’ 2020 home opening victory versus Holmes Community College.

It was also the first interception return for a touchdown by the Tigers since Norphlet’s teammate Tony Washington did so in a triumph at rival Itawamba Community College one year ago.

“I just dropped back and I was reading the quarterback’s eyes,” said Norphlet. “We practice a lot of come back drills so that helped me get a break on the ball. I just took it home.”

Northeast’s defense as a whole was sensational all night. The Tigers held Mississippi Gulf Coast, which had 56 points and over 500 yards of offense last week at Holmes, to only 245 yards, 12 first downs and one touchdown.

The Tigers also forced the Bulldogs (2-0) into committing four turnovers. Washington accounted for two of those with an interception and a fumble recovery while Jamarcus Smith added to the total with a pick late in the first quarter.

“Defensively, we couldn’t have played any better,” Northeast head coach Greg Davis said. “Hats off to them. They’ve got a great scheme and we’ve got a lot of talent over there. People don’t realize how fast we are on defense.”

The Tigers took a 13-12 lead after John Ellis Murrah drilled a career-long 37-yard field goal as the horn sounded to end the first half. Northeast marched 45 yards in only one minute, 39 seconds on that possession and benefitted from a 17-yard run by Gary Banks, II.

Murrah extended the Tigers’ advantage to 16-12 with his final field goal of the contest from 24 yards out with 4:57 to go in the third period. He also had a 19-yard chip shot midway through the second.

Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is ranked No. 6 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, completed its come-from-behind attempt on a 25-yard field goal with just 58 seconds remaining in the game.

Northeast did not go down quietly in the closing moments. The Tigers quickly moved into enemy territory following first down pickups by Khi Holiday and Carter Putt, but an interception at the 34-yard line sealed the win for the Bulldogs.

Putt was 17 of 26 through the air for 168 yards during his inaugural start behind center for Northeast (0-2). Dallas Payne was his top target with four receptions for 79 yards.

The Tigers wrap up the non-division portion of their schedule next Thursday, September 16 by hosting Hinds Community College. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. on the Booneville campus.

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