from staff reports
The winning streak is gone and so are the hopes for a national championship repeat.
Itawamba Community College kicked a field goal with 16 seconds left Saturday at Fulton’s Eaton Field to stun No. 3 East Mississippi Community College 24-23.
The Lions, who saw their 20-game winning streak come to an end, still head into the MACJC state playoffs as the top seed from the North Division and host Copiah-Lincoln at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba. EMCC is 8-1 and 5-1 in the North, which it won for the fourth time in five seasons.
And while the Lions can still win their second straight state championship — South champion Mississippi Gulf Coast hosts Northwest Mississippi in the other semifinal Saturday with the state title to follow No. 10 — and third in four years, there won’t be another national title coming to EMCC, which was hoping a second straight undefeated season would lead to passing either top-ranked Iowa Western or No. 2 Butler (Kan.) Community College.
But that ended due to a sluggish start and the late kick by the Indians, who finish 6-3 and 4-2 in the North.
Itawamba, which was holding its homecoming, treated the crowd with a fast start. Griff Loftis hit Rashad Pargo on a 3-yard scoring toss at the 11:44 mark of the first quarter to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
It stayed that way until 4:54 left in the first half when Loftis hit Ronald Carswell for a touchdown and ICC had a 14-0 lead.
However, EMCC responded. Sophomore running back Rodriguez Moore scored from 5 yards out with 3:06 left in the half to pull the Lions within 14-7. Moore again found paydirt to pull EMCC even midway through the third quarter when he hauled in a 16-yard pass from Quez Johnson.
Almost exactly a quarter later, EMCC took its first lead as Morgan Rhodes hit a 31-yard field goal with 8:34 remaining.
The Indians, though, were not finished. Tobias Loftin scored from 21 yards out with 6:49 remaining and ICC went back ahead 21-17.
In the see-saw fourth quarter, EMCC again moved ahead as Johnson — who rushed for 124 yards on 33 carries, while completing 25 of 44 passes for 225 yards, but also threw three first-half interceptions — scored on a 1-yard run with 2:37 to go. However, a holding penalty on the extra point led to a second kick and Rhodes pushed it wide left, making EMCC’s lead only 23-21.
The Indians then moved into field goal range and Tyler Jackson hit a career-long 43-yarder with 16 seconds left to stun EMCC.