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No. 5 Bobcats host No. 14 Hinds in South Division tilt

Jones College receiver Qua Sanders (16) gains yardage after a reception last week at Itawamba...
Jones College receiver Qua Sanders (16) gains yardage after a reception last week at Itawamba Community College.(Lee Adams/Itawamaba Community Collegeimages.com)
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:13 AM CDT
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Jones College Sports Information

ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) – Many junior college football observers were stunned to see the Hinds Community College Eagles rally last week from a 28-point deficit and topple previously unbeaten and fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, 42-37.

Jones College head coach Steve Buckley was not among them.

“It didn’t surprise me because I’ve witnessed it first-hand,” Buckley said this week. “Last year, we were up on Hinds (16-0) and lose the ballgame.”

The fifth-ranked Bobcats host No. 14 Hinds at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field.

The game will air on JCJC.TV, WLAU-FM, 99.3, and SuperTalkLaurel.com with Mark Easley and Luke Johnson on the call.

Jones (4-0) enters the game 1-0 in the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference’s South Division.

The Eagles (3-1, 1-MACCC) are riding a three-game winning streak. Hinds dropped a 21-14 decision to Coahoma Community College in the season opener, but has bounced back to beat Holmes Community College, 41-21; Northeast Mississippi Community College, 18-13; and Gulf Coast.

In last week’s win over Gulf Coast, the Eagles trailed 24-0 after the first quarter and 31-3 in the second quarter before quarterback Besean McCrary rallied Hinds.

McCrary hit Tabashi Thomas on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds to play to pull out the win. Running back Jeffrey Pittman had 11 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns and was named the MACCC “Offensive Player of the Week.”

McCrary ended the game 17-of-32 through the air for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

Last year against Jones, McCrary was 41-of-74 for 421 yards. The Eagles scored nine points in the game’s final 46 seconds, including a 25-yard field goal as time expired to shock the Bobcats, 18-16.

“They are an explosive football team, offensively,” Buckley said. “Their quarterback is an older kid and makes a lot of plays. He makes plays with his arm and his legs and he makes great decisions.

“They have explosive guys at wideout and tailback. They can explode at any point. You think you’ve got them hemmed up and then here they go. We saw it last year, so the Gulf Coast game did not surprise me at all.”

On defense, the Eagles yielded only two field goals in the second half.

“Defensively, they are as sound as you’re going to play,” Buckley said. “They do what they do and they do it very well.”

In Fulton, Miss, last week, Jones was having to pull off a rally of its own to gain a victory Itawamba Community College.

The Bobcats trailed 14-7 at halftime before roaring back for a 35-23 win.

Buckley said the game was a good one in many ways for the Bobcats.

“We needed that type of game,” he said. “I want responders and our kids responded. We talk all the time about one of three things are going to happen in a football game and two of them are guaranteed: you are either going to be behind, ahead or tied. All three of those things happened in that game.

“I thought in the first half we played well. We were actually clean, but we just missed some plays. Our kids did not panic, our coaches did not panic and we did not change what we do. I was glad to see our kids respond.”

Defensively, JC linebacker Kenderian Dixon had 10 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble.

JC linebacker Drew Horton had eight stops and defensive backs Hershey McLaurin and Tylan Glas each made seven tackles.

Jaylin Simmons came up with an interception and a fumble recovery and Travor Randle and André Mack added interceptions.

On offense, running back La’Damian Webb had 22 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

Webb leads the National Junior College Athletic Association with 620 rushing yards (155.0 yards per game) and is tied for the top spot in rushing touchdowns with eight.

Quarterback Quaterius Hawkins completed 15 of 27 passes 162 yards and two touchdowns at Itawamba.

Bud Tolbert had four catches for 55 yards and a score and Ashton Nickelberry had four receptions for 42 yards.

A key to the game was that Jones forced four turnovers and turned all of them into touchdowns. On the flip side, the Bobcats did not have a turnover.

“It felt like we got only one easy one off of a turnover, but give Itawamba credit,” Buckley said. “We punted the ball to the 2-yard line, and they went 98 yards on the first drive. It was a heck of a drive by them. But our kids responded, and we got a few things going on offense.

“I was very pleased, and I thought we played very well. Sometimes, from the stands or from the TV, it may not look like what the fans may want, but at the same time from the inside out, I felt good about what we were doing.”

Buckley said the Indians (1-3) provided a stern test for his squad, especially considering the lengthy road trip involved.

“You look at Itawamba and it just shows you the parity in our league,” he said. “The other thing I think people take for granted is a road victory. It’s hard to win on the road at any level.

“That’s a long trip for us and our kids handled it very well. There could have been a bunch of distractions and there wasn’t. I think from a mental standpoint, we were focused and we responded.”

Heading into this week’s contest, Buckley said a crucial factor will be turnovers. Through four games, Jones has forced 14 turnovers and committed only four.

“We’ve done a great job with our turnovers this year,” he said. “We are plus-10 on turnovers. Our defense is creating turnovers and for the most part, we are taking care of the ball.

“The key to any football game is taking care of the ball. We have to be clean, execute, do our job and not get caught up in the game. There are 11 guys on the field on each side of the ball, so just do your job.”

After this week’s game, the regular season will be more than halfway over.

It’s a much different situation from the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, which saw the Bobcats only play five regular season games.

“I told the kids yesterday that this time last year we were getting ready to play our last game,” Buckley said. “We just played five games last year and it’s a different scenario this year. But there is a lot of football left and it’s getting down to where there is not a lot of room for error.”

Next week, Jones will play its lone Saturday regular-season game at 2 p.m. on Oct. 9 when the Bobcats host Southwest Mississippi Community College.

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