CATEGORY: FOC College Football
HED:East Central edges Northeast
By Kevin Cavender
BOONEVILLE Northeast's defense pulled out its entire big-play arsenal Thursday to put it in position to beat East Central, but the lackluster Tiger offense continually misfired.
Northeast, which enjoyed four East Central turnovers, squandered several key opportunities deep in Warrior territory to lose 9-3 at Keenum Stadium and drop to 0-2.
"That was as gutsy an effort as I've ever seen by a defensive ballclub," Northeast coach Laurin Collins said. "They played their hearts out. But for whatever reason, our offense suffered individual breakdowns at the wrong time."
Northeast had an opportunity to tie the game with a drive deep into East Central territory in the final two minutes, but a touchdown pass to receiver Remond Goode was called back for offensive pass interference. Three plays later, Tiger quarterback Antonio Kirkpatrick threw and interception to Warrior defensive back Joey Pinkston.
"They knew we had to pass and blitzed everybody and we just didn't have enough people to block," Kirkpatrick said. "I didn't have time to set up and look at the proper reads."
East Central's defense hung tough, but it was the Tigers' defense that stole the show. Northeast's heralded defensive linemen, Raheem Pontiflet and Michael Boireau, each had fumble returns deep in Warrior territory and linebacker Bradley Prather of Falkner intercepted a pass and forced another fumble.
Boireau's 44-yard fumble return put the Northeast offense in good position to win the game with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter when safety Frank Bates hammered Warrior quarterback Al Hunt and Boireau rambled to the East Central 24.
"What can I say about our defense? They played their hearts out and never let down," Collins said. "They gave a great effort against a pretty darn good offensive football team.
East Central was able to move the ball, mainly on the shoulders of tailback Mack Pittman, who gained 124 yards on 20 carries, but the Northeast defense continuously came up with the big play.
Northeast's defensive line came up big on East Central's first possession when Hunt pitched to no one in the backfield and Pontiflet scooped it up to set up Northeast on the East Central 16.
"It looked like it was going in slow motion to me," Pontiflet said with a smile. "But I just saw the ball and thought, 'Here's my chance.'"
Four plays later, Neal Allen booted a 28-yard field goal to put the Tigers up 3-0.
East Central retaliated with a 62-yard drive, capped by Shaun Walker's 22-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the first quarter to tie things up 3-3.
Both offenses then started swapping fumbles with plenty of penalties mixed in. Kirkpatrick had the ball snatched out of his hands by Warrior linebacker William Johnson, who set up East Central at the Northeast 18.
On third down, Prather nailed Warrior tailback Mack Pittman who fumbled it to Northeast.
Again, the Tigers squandered an opportunity when Kirkpatrick botched the handoff on his own 20 and East Central pounced on the loose ball.
This time, Northeast paid for its mistake on the very next play from the Tiger 20 as Hunt passed right to Meeks who spun away from two tacklers and hit paydirt with 2:01 left in the half to extend the Warrior lead to 9-3.
East Central 3 6 0 0 - 9
Northeast 3 0 0 0 - 3
NE - Allen 28-yd. FG. (9:43)
EC - Walker 22-yd. FG. (0:29)
EC - Hunt 20-yd pass to Meeks. (2:01)