October 23, 2009 8:22:00 AM
SCOOBA -- The No. 7 East Mississippi Community College football team extended its MACJC North Division winning streak to 15 on Thursday by beating Mississippi Delta 28-10 at Sullivan-Windham Field.
With its top-rated offense not clicking on all cylinders in the regular-season finale, EMCC (8-1) got a huge special teams boost from freshman wide receiver British Footman, who had 215 return yards on two kickoff returns and a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Entering the contest ranked first nationally with an average of 513.9 yards of total offense per game, EMCC failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season.
With Mississippi Delta also unable to score in the first 15 minutes, both teams combined for four punts and four fumbles in the opening period.
EMCC''s defense helped set up the team''s first score as Anthony Hines'' third interception of the season led to a 2-yard scoring run by freshman Floyd Graves at the 13-minute, 15-second mark of the second quarter.
Hines, a sophomore free safety from Starkville, added his team-leading fourth interception later in the half to go along with a first-half fumble recovery.
Mississippi Delta answered five minutes later with a nine-play, 63-yard scoring drive on the game''s next possession. Jarvis Smith was rewarded for his 36-yard run on a third-and-1 conversion earlier in the possession by taking it in from 3 yards to tie the score 7-7 with 8:15 remaining in the half.
The game''s momentum swung back in favor of EMCC midway through the quarter when Footman fielded an Anthony Simpson punt inside the 10-yard line, spun away from would-be tacklers, and sprinted 91 yards for his second return for a touchdown in the last three games to help the Lions take a 14-7 lead into intermission.
Mississippi Delta opened the second half with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Parker Brocato that made it made it 14-10 with 11:34 left in the third quarter.
Footman, who had a 44-yard kickoff return in the first half, changed the complexion of the game with a tackle-breaking, 80-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. The return helped set up a 4-yard scamper by reserve quarterback Brad Henderson. Henderson''s fourth rushing touchdown of the season increased EMCC''s lead to 21-10 with 11:12 remaining in the period.
In second-half relief of All-America quarterback Randall Mackey, Henderson capped the night''s scoring by connecting with sophomore Stephon Johnson on a 16-yard scoring strike at the 10:49 mark of the final period. Battling nagging injuries, Mackey completed 9-of-15 passes for 91 yards and one interception in the first half.
As a team, the Lions mustered only 194 yards of offense (114 passing and 80 rushing) against the MACJC''s top-ranked team in total defense and rushing defense.
Now 16-3 overall and a perfect 12-0 against North Division competition under the guidance of second-year coach Buddy Stephens, EMCC''s 15-game winning streak against the MACJC North dates back to the 2007 campaign.
Following last year''s MACJC state playoff appearance against Pearl River -- EMCC''s first playoff berth since 1984 -- East Mississippi is set to make a second consecutive state playoff appearance for the first time in school history. As the North Division''s No. 1 seed for the second straight year, the Lions will play host to the South Division''s runner-up on Oct. 31. The winners of the semifinal-round contests will contend for the state championship on Nov. 7.