JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Two football teams heading in opposite directions will meet Thursday night when Jones County Junior College travels to Summit to visits Southwest Mississippi Community College in South Division play.
But despite the Bobcats (3-1, 1-0 South Division) three-game winning streak, JCJC coach Steve Buckley said he is leery of the threat posed by Coach Tucker Peavey's winless Bears (0-4, 0-1).
"Like I say every week, you are not going to outcoach people in this league, you have to out-recruit them," Buckley said. "No question, Southwest is struggling with injury bug. You look at their first game and their fourth game and there are a lot of different faces in their lineup.
"But I know Coach Peavey, and I know they will line up and have a game plan that will be very simple and solid on how to attack us and how to defend us."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at John Hurst Stadium and the game will air on JCJC TV here and the Jones County Junior College Facebook page on "Facebook Live" with Mark Easley and Chris Robinson on the call.
The Bobcats dropped a 47-34 decision to No. 1 East Mississippi Community College to open the season, but since have reeled off wins against Mississippi Delta Community College (51-10), Coahoma Community College (33-16) and Copiah-Lincoln Community College (35-10).
The Bears have lost to Coahoma (35-20), Holmes Community College (67-34), Hinds Community College (40-14) and Northeast Mississippi Community College (36-19).
Still, Buckley said the Bobcats would not overlook the Bears.
"That won't be a factor with this football team," Buckley said. "We have nine opportunities to play, and this is the fifth game of nine. Like I told the players, everybody is building a resume here. It's all about game day.
"We just have to continue to build on what we have done in these last three weeks and keep just getting better."
One player the Bobcats especially will not overlook is Southwest wide receiver/return man Neil McLaurin, who prepped at West Jones High School. McLaurin, who also has played quarterback for the Bears, returned a kickoff 81 yards for a score last week against Northwest.
"Neil is playing a lot of receiver, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see him at quarterback this week," Buckley said. "They have some injuries at their quarterback position.
"Neil is a tremendous athlete. You can see him in their kicking game and then they try to get the ball in his hands a lot and when they do, a lot of positive things happen for them."
McLaurin leads Southwest receivers with 19 catches for 375 yards and two touchdowns.
Southwest quarterback Juwan Adams (North Pike) averages just about 100 yards passing a game, while Chase Hughes (Centreville Academy) averages about 66 rushing yards a game. Hughes has three rushing touchdowns.
Top tacklers for the Bears include linebacker Chanler Ferguson (Boynton Beach, Fla.) with 34 stops and safety Lavorclay Gaddis (West Marion) with 31 tackles. Defensive back Anfernee Jordan (Hazlehurst) has two interceptions.
JCJC comes into the Southwest game with a head of steam after its 25-point win over then-No. 25 Co-Lin. The Bobcats held the Wolves to 241 total yards, including just 31 yards rushing.
"We did a lot of good things," Buckley said. "Defensively, it might have been our best performance in the last year and a half. We were very sound. We aligned correctly, pre-snap, which was a big push going into that game.
"I thought the defensive backs did a great job of getting ready to play, pre-snap."
The Bobcats were led by linebacker Tyrek Moody (Petal) with seven tackles and end Wardalis Ducksworth (Mize) with six tackles, three for loss, including two sacks.
Linebacker Jordyn Bowlin (Starkville) finished with four tackles, three for loss, with two sacks, and also forced two fumbles. End Brandon Young (West Jones) had three tackles, including a sack, and tackle Dashawn Crawford (Bay Springs) had three tackles for loss, including a sack.
Defensive back Fred Peters (Columbia) made five tackles, including a sack, recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. Defensive back Jamar Richardson (Aliceville, Ala.) had a sack and recovered a fumble.
All told, the Bobcats recorded 16 tackles for loss, including eight sacks.
"That was the game plan,' Buckley said. "I feel like if we can get single blocks up front by bringing one extra player, we have a chance to get to the quarterback.
"When our outside pressure guys come inside, it creates outside running lanes that don't need to be there. But I thought our defense played very, very well."
Offensively, JCJC amassed 425 total yards, including 368 yards rushing.
DeShawn Smith (Brooksville, Fla.) gained 152 yards on just 13 carries, including a38-yard scoring run. Scott Phillips had 155 yards on 18 carries, including a 55-yard scoring run.
"Offensively, I thought we did a lot of good things," Buckley said. "When you rush the ball for as many yards as we did, you are doing some things right. But I thought we left some plays on the field, and a lot of it was self-inflicted because we kept getting behind the chains and it was our fault.
"We would have a fumble or a penalty, and we were not as consistent as we needed to be. But there was enough to build on, offensively, especially running the football. That was our challenge, let's line up and run the football."
Punter Taylor Wallace (Jackson Prep) averaged 37.3 yards on seven punts. Four of his punts resulted in fair catches and he dropped two inside the 20-yard line.
"Taylor is as good as anyone in the country, in my opinion," Buckley said. "He flipped the field one time when he hit about a 50-yarder with a minus-4-yard return. And it's not just Taylor. It's our entire coverage team."
Buckley wasn't as pleased with other aspects of the Bobcats' special teams play. JCJC gave up chunks of real estate on kickoff returns and placekicker Mike Kroeze (Madison Central) missed two field goals.
"We had lapses on kickoff coverage, but a lot of that had to do with placement of the kick," Buckley said. "Michael is a good kicker and he just needs to get his confidence back. He needs to hit the ball where we need him to and make some field goals.
"You have to be like a defensive back. You have to forget about that play and make the next one because we needed those three points right before the half."
The Bobcats appeared to have the game well in hand until late in the third quarter, when Co-Lin recovered a fumble and then used a gadget play to score from 35 yards out on the next play.
But JCJC answered with a five-play, 65-yard drive that Smith capped with his 38-yard scoring run.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bowlin forced a fumble that was scooped up by Peters, who took it 40 yards for a touchdown.
After Travis Reed (Meridian) intercepted a pass by the Wolves, JCJC quarterback Chris Weaver (Bay Minette, Ala.) scored on a 7-yard run to wrap up the scoring.
"The kids responded to everything we talk about as a coaching staff," Buckley said. "There was some adversity in that game from a turnover standpoint to a big-play standpoint by Co-Lin.
"But we responded to it in the proper way."