No. 20 Indians rally, grab edge for playoffs

Lauren Wood

Special to the Journal

FULTON – The Itawamba Indians and Northeast Tigers banged on each other like rivals with a playoff spot on the line.

Itawamba just happened to have more time and opportunity.

With less than two minutes to play, Griff Loftis found Jarvis Bentley in the middle of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown as the Indians edged the Tigers 36-33 on Thursday night.

“We’ve got bullets, too,” ICC coach Jon Williams said. “This was a total team effort.

“We got down, but we never got rattled.”

The North Division matchup was worthy of being a battle for a playoff spot. With the win, Itawamba (6-2, 4-1) gains all edges in a tiebreaker situation, and could win the North by handing No. 2 East Mississippi its first loss next week.

ICC drove 53 yards for the winning score in the closing minutes, with Northeast holding a 33-28 lead.

Loftis, who passed for 331 yards on the night, completed three throws on the drive. A 20-yard strike to Fulton’s Shante Rogers set up the winning pass to Bentley with  1 minute, 10 seconds to play.

Itawamba held an early 14-0 lead thanks to a fumble recovery score by Myles Harges and a 12-yard pass to Jaquez McMillian in the first quarter.

Northeast (3-5, 3-2) responded in the period with a 2-yard run by quarterback Jerrard Randall, and a 1-yard run by Corbin White. The Nettleton’s freshman rushed for 229 yards, with Randall adding 131 yards on the ground.

ICC added a  TD on a 30-yard pass to LaDarrell Hunt for a 21-13 halftime lead.

Northeast bounced back in the third quarter with an 8-yard reception by Khalil Stinson. Chris Cooper then hit a pair of field goals, followed by a 29-yard TD by White for a 33-21 lead.

“We played hard,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “I feel so bad for these guys.”

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