By Shawn Wansley
JCJC Sports Information Director
ELLISVILLE – An early defensive onslaught keyed the No. 4 Jones County Junior College Bobcats to victory here Saturday afternoon at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field in the opening round of the MACJC playoffs.
JCJC returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter – two by Jamal Lucas and one by Charles Lewis – and went on to whip the Itawamba Community College Indians, 49-21.
That means the Bobcats will travel to 2nd-ranked East Mississippi Community College at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 for the MACJC championship. The 10-0 Lions rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit and went on to defeat Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 45-28 on Saturday.
D'Andre Jackson also had a pass interception for JCJC, while Ben Benison recovered a fumble.
Thamaz Taylor paced the JCJC rushing attack with 56 yards on four carries. Qua Boyd rushed for a pair of scores.
Quarterback Steven Swindle was 13-of-28 for 188 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Wide receiver Dylan Bossier had four catches for 48 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown.
ICC running back Tobias Lofton carried 32 times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Indians end the year at 6-4.
Itawamba had a chance to take the lead in the first quarter.
The Indians drove from their 21 to the Bobcat 22 in five plays. But facing a third and 5, quarterback Griff Loftis threw into the middle of the field and was picked off by Lucas at the 12.
Lucas, a freshman from Hoover, Ala., and the Bobcats' leading tackler, returned the interception 88 yards for the score. Grant McLaurin's extra point made it 7-0 with 11:54 left in the first quarter.
On JCJC's second offensive possession, the Bobcats drove 74 yards in eight plays for a score. Justin Harris scored on a 3-yard run and McLaurin's extra point made it 14-0 with 9:01 left in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, ICC's Darius White picked off a Swindle pass and the Indians were in business at their own 49-yard line.
But on the very next play, Lucas picked off Loftis and returned it 52 yards for another touchdown. McLaurin's extra point made it 21-0 with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, Loftis was picked off by Lewis, who returned the interception 30 yards for a touchdown. McLaurin's extra point gave JCJC a 28-0 lead with 3:54 still to play in the first quarter.
The Bobcats added to the lead with a 43-yard, eight-play drive. Short-yardage quarterback Qua Boyd came in and scored from 1-yard away. McLaurin's PAT gave JCJC a 35-0 lead with 11:27 left in the first half.
On JCJC's next possession, the Bobcats marched 57 yards in five plays for the score. Boyd scored from 3 yards away – one play after he lined up as a wide receiver and caught a 22-yard pass from Swindle. McLaurin's kick made it 42-0 with 8:49 still to play in the first half.
JCJC's final touchdown came on their first possession of the second half.
The Bobcats drove 75 yards in seven plays with Bossier catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from Swindle. McLaurin's kick made it 49-0 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
Itawamba got on the board when Lofton capped a 43-yard, nine-play drive and scored from a yard out with 7:53 left in the game. Jeb Millender's extra point made it 49-7.
The ICC defense came up with a touchdown of its own when the Bobcats fumbled the ball in their own end zone and Jeff Johnson recovered for a touchdown. Millender's kick made it 49-14 with 3:50 remaining.