September 24, 2010 8:23:00 AM
FULTON - The visiting Lions of East Mississippi held Itawamba scoreless in the second half en route to their first win of the year with a 37-10 division triumph over the Indians Thursday at Lambert Stadium on the ICC campus.
Leading 13-10 at the intermission after a fairly even opening half, EMCC''s defense proved to be the difference in the contest in limiting the homestanding Indians to less than 100 yards of total offense in the second half on just 25 plays from scrimmage. After rushing for 140 yards in the first half, ICC could only muster 40 yards on the ground after the break.
East Mississippi''s defensive unit also gave the visitors the early momentum. Though the Lions couldn''t capitalize on Perrance Ward''s first collegiate interception on Itawamba''s opening drive, sophomore cornerback Johnny Cockrell of Columbus picked off ICC''s Andy Wilson on the next possession and ran it in from 56 yards out for the game''s opening score. Taylor Walker''s point-after-touchdown attempt hit the left upright, but EMCC owned a 6-0 lead midway through the opening period.
In their division opener, the Indians responded with a 12-play drive that used up nearly seven minutes on the game clock, but the home team had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Will Goodwin to cut the deficit in half heading into the second quarter.
The Lions moved efficiently down the field on their next possession, as sophomore quarterback Brad Henderson teamed up with fellow sophomore Marcus McQuarley of Meridian for three connections that picked up 61 total yards. Henderson capped the nine-play, 72-yard drive by hitting freshman receiver Hamp Glover - McQuarley''s former prep teammate on Meridian High School''s 2008 state championship team - for an 11-yard scoring strike. Walker''s successful PAT put the visitors on top, 13-3, with 11:50 left in the half.
Itawamba''s only touchdown of the contest was aided by a couple of EMCC miscues late in the second quarter. A low snap from center was mishandled by punter Rodney Davis, giving the Indians the ball at the 11-yard line. After apparently holding ICC to a 24-yard Goodwin field goal, the Lions were flagged for a running into the kicker penalty. Itawamba opted to take the three points off the scoreboard, and subsequently punched the ball into the end zone three plays later on a 1-yard burst by DeShawn McGaughy. Goodwin''s PAT closed the gap to 13-10 heading into intermission.
East Mississippi set the tone for the remainder of the game by coming out of the locker room and putting together a 61-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard scoring run over right tackle by sophomore running back Floyd Graves. The former Newton County standout''s fourth touchdown of the year and Walker''s subsequent PAT doubled the margin at 20-10.
The visitors all but put the game away during the final couple of minutes of the third quarter. After Walker''s 33-yard field goal with 2:21 left in the quarter and an ensuing three-and-out series by the home team, EMCC sophomore speedster Andre Taylor ran down an ICC punt and bolted 71 yards to the end zone to give the reigning state champions a comfortable 30-10 cushion heading into the final period.
Sophomore Trayshun King''s 19-yard sweep around left end provided the game''s final score at the 4:50 mark of the fourth quarter, giving the Lions their fourth consecutive series win over Itawamba. The 27-point triumph marked EMCC''s first win in four tries on the year after dropping three straight decisions to open the 2010 campaign, including losses to current Top 10 foes Mississippi Gulf Coast and Northwest Mississippi. ICC dropped to 1-3 with the setback.
Offensively for the winners, Henderson completed 20-of-32 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown on the night. The Starkville native hit nine different receivers in the contest, led by the Meridian tandem of McQuarley and Glover with four grabs apiece. King, by way of Columbia High School, finished with 52 rushing yards on 10 carries and also had a couple of catches.
Head coach Buddy Stephens'' 1-3 EMCC Lions stay on the road in division play by traveling to Clarksdale to meet Coahoma next Thursday.
Itawamba goes to Moorhead on Thursday to take on Mississippi Delta in division play.