November 1, 2009 12:20:00 AM
SCOOBA -- The No. 7 East Mississippi Community College football team secured its first trip to the MACJC state football championship game with a 26-16 semifinal-round victory against No. 19 Jones County on Saturday afternoon at Sullivan-Windham Field.
EMCC (9-1) will try to avenge its only loss of the season when it plays host to No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast at 2 p.m. next week in Scooba.
MGCCC defeated Coahoma 58-21 in the other semifinal. The Bulldogs beat the Lions 43-26 on Sept. 17.
Tickets for the championship game will be available the day of the game for $10 for adults and $5 for students. The winner will play in the Mississippi Bowl on Dec. 6 in Biloxi.
Now 17-3 in two seasons under head coach Buddy Stephens, the Lions recorded their third victory this season against a ranked opponent. In reaching the nine-win mark for the first time since going 9-1 for head coach A.J. Kilpatrick''s 1969 Lions'' team, EMCC is the first representative from the MACJC''s North Division to compete in the state championship football game since Holmes claimed the 2002 state title.
The Lions scored the only points in the first half on their second possession. On a third-and-2 play, preseason All-America quarterback Randall Mackey connected with fellow sophomore Lance Lewis on a 73-yard touchdown reception with 10 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first quarter. The play marked the fourth time this season Mackey has hooked up with Lewis on scoring plays of 70 yards or better.
After the Bobcats cut the deficit to 7-3 on Jacob Chancellor''s 38-yard field goal at the 11:35 mark of the third quarter, EMCC sophomore Phillip Dimino, of West Point, pinned JCJC on its 2-yard line with a 41-yard punt. Two plays later, sophomore free safety Anthony Hines intercepted his second pass of the game and scored on a 20-yard interception return with 9:13 left in the quarter to make it 14-3. The former Starkville High School standout leads the Lions with six interceptions.
EMCC tacked another seven points later in the third quarter when Lewis (five catches, season-high 161 yards) took a pass from reserve quarterback Brad Henderson, of Starkville, cut inside, and spun back outside to score from 14 yards at the 4:48 mark. The touchdown was his team-best 11th of the season.
Jones County closed the gap to 21-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter, as backup quarterback Robert Ross hit Anthony Jackson with a 5-yard scoring pass.
After the teams traded turnovers four plays apart inside''s EMCC''s red zone, the Bobcats used some trickery to make it a one-score ballgame midway through the quarter. With JCJC lined up for a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 8:41 remaining, holder Chris Lofton found Chancellor wide open in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass. However, in trying to go for the two-point conversion, Ross'' pass attempt was intercepted by T.J. Ballou and returned 100 yards the other way. Instead of JCJC potentially cutting the margin to just a field goal, the resulting runback put the home team on top 23-16.
The Lions used their ensuing possession to take nearly six minutes off the clock, with Brett Spencer''s 20-yard field goal capping an 11-play drive and leaving but 3:09 on the game clock.