CATEGORY: FOC College Football
HED:Indians pull off upset of East Mississippi, 25-16
By D.E. Wheeler
FULTON - Mission accomplished!
After readjusting their goals six games into the junior college football season, the Itawamba Indians ended the season on a four-game winning streak, capped by Thursday's 25-16 win over the East Mississippi Lions.
"It's about time, it's about time, it's about time," a beaming Itawamba coach Jay Miller said after the game. "They played their butts off tonight. At last we got the best out of them."
Though not as meaningful as it use to be, the Lions (6-4, 4-2) came into Thursday's game having already wrapped up second place in the North Division. That did not impressed the Indians (5-5, 3-3).
What did impress early was East's ground game, which accounted for the first score of the game. Quarterback Timmy Lawson kept the football on an option to the left side and raced 42 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead just one minute, 39 seconds into the game.
But ICC had set a goal of not finishing with a losing record after starting 1-5, and the Lions were the last team in their way. With first-string quarterback Jeffrey Aaron reinjuring a sore shoulder on the Indians' initial series, backup Ed Porter stepped up and delivered in the clutch.
Coming in cold, Porter completed his first three passes, the third to Earnest Washington for 35 yards and ICC's first touchdown. The kick was low, and the Indians trailed 7-6 with 11:17 left in the opening quarter.
"Jeff's shoulder was just hurting him, and he got a lick on it early," Miller said. "Ed has done a damn good job every time he's got the chance: He just plays behind a good football player."
A poor punt into the cold wind blowing off the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway helped set up East's next scoring drive, a 4-play, 37-yard effort. Lawson sprinted the last 16 yards with 2:27 left in the quarter for a 14-6 lead.
The Lions' weakness this game was putting the ball on the ground, which they did seven times, and which set up ICC's next score just before the half.
Carl Fair fumbled on the Lions own 24-yard line, and three plays later Porter hit Washington for a 24-yard TD with 43 seconds left. The Indians attempted a halfback pass on a try for two points, Corey Johnson was sacked and fumbled, and Ray John Miles picked up the loose ball and returned it for two points for the Lions.
That made the score 16-12 in favor of East at the half.
"This team played hard tonight like you want a team to play," Miller said. "We won four in a row with a bunch of young kids, and I think some of them learned how to win."
The Indians continued to fight in the second half, breaking into the lead on a 4-yard run by Kevin Williams with 4:31 left in the third quarter. And with Jason West's kick, ICC led 19-16.
The Lions' last fumble was perhaps the most costly, giving Itawamba the ball at the East 20-yard line. On the second play after the fumble, Porter hit Jason Fisher for a 19-yard score with 8:24 left for a 25-16 lead.
"We turned the ball over too much," East head coach Tom Goode said. "We had a chance to win this game in the first half.
"It turned out to be hard to get the team back up after last week's loss to Northwest, but this was a game we could have won."