ICC upsets defending national champs EMCC 24-23October 30, 2012
FULTON, MS –Eliminated from postseason play, the Itawamba Community College football team was playing for one thing and one thing only against defending state and national champion and third-ranked East Mississippi Community College on Saturday.Pride.
With former ICC football great and 2012 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Jason Ferguson leading the chop, the Indians (6-3, 4-2 MACJC North) celebrated a 24-23 Homecoming victory over the Lions (8-1, 5-1 MACJC North) after a 43-yard field goal by Tyler Jackson (Oxford) and a sack by Fred Ward (Aberdeen) on the final play of the game.
“This goes far past coaching,” said Williams. “I’ve had a lot of big and special wins in my 16-year career, but this one ranks on top of that list because this win is about a group of kids who believed and never gave up against a team that without a doubt is one of the best teams in the nation.”
East Mississippi took a 23-21 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Quez Johnson. Morgan Rhodes’ extra point was brought back on a holding penalty and the re-kicked was missed wide right opening the door for the Indians’ late game heroics.
Griff Loftis (Mooreville) marched the Indians 63 yards sparked by a pair of juggling catches by Rashad Pargo (Aberdeen) and Ronald Carswell (Macon, GA) before finding Adrian Brown (Olive Branch) on a 7-yard reception on third-and-eight to set up Jackson for the game-winning field goal.
“The line gave me a great blocks and Pargo gave me a perfect hold,” said Jackson, who also kicked a game-winning field goal against Coahoma. “I hit the ball solid and it felt great leaving my foot. This is easily the biggest kick I have ever had.”
Loftis finished the game 24-of-37 passing for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“This was a great team effort,” said Loftis. “We had a great week of practice and believed we could win this game. The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, the running backs ran hard, the receivers ran great routes… this was just a great way to end the year.”
An interception by Brandon Smith set up the Indians with a short field and the game’s first score when Loftis found a leaping Pargo for a 4-yard scoring strike in the back of the end zone in the first quarter before hitting a streaking Carswell for a 40-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-0 lead.
EMCC cut the lead to 14-7 on a 5-yard run by Rodriquez Moore and looked to tie the game before halftime after recovering a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff, but an interception returned 20 yards by Theo Rich (Portal, GA) allowed the Indians to hold on to the lead at the break.
ICC picked off three passes in the first half.
The defending national champs tied the game 14-14 on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Moore on their first possession of the second half and took their first lead of the game on a 31-yard field goal by Rhodes.
Aided by a pair of EMCC personal foul penalties, the Indians quickly regained the lead 21-17 when the offensive line opened a gaping hole for Tobias Lofton (Forest) to sprint untouched into end zone for his first collegiate touchdown on a 21-yard run.
Lofton rushed for 48 yards on 10 carries while Courtney Gladney (Olive Branch) led the rushing attack with 59 yards on 14 carries. Pargo caught 6 passes for 41 yards with Carswell adding 63 yards on 3 catches as the Indians racked up 440 yards of total offense (117 rushing; 323 passing).
“I thought we did an excellent job up front controlling the line of scrimmage,” Williams said. “Our big guys didn’t give up a sack the entire game and that says a lot because you are looking at a defense that is stacked with SEC talent.”
Defensively, the Indians totaled 13 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 7 pass break ups and forced three turnovers in the win.
“I can’t say enough about the heart our guys played with on both sides of the ball,” said ICC defensive coordinator Sean Cannon. “They played every snap like it was their last one and dug down deep to find what it took to win.”
Smith finished the game with a game-high 13 tackles (11 solo; 2 assists) with 3 tackles for a loss of 22 yards and 2 sacks for a loss of 16 yards while breaking up a pass and picking off another. CJ Jackson (Water Valley) and Quad Freeman (Guntown) each had 11 tackles while Terrell Pinson (Tupelo) returned an interception 20 yards.
Playing with only 39 active players on its 55-man injury plagued roster, ICC snapped a nation best 20-game win streak for the Lions and was the third-straight win for the Indians.
For more information on ICC football and the nine other intercollegiate athletic programs visit www.LetsGoICC.com.