For the second week in a row, the East Central Community College Warriors took a lead into the fourth quarter on the road against a nationally ranked opponent, but this time the Warrior defense came up with a big last-minute stop to preserve a 34-28 upset win over the No. 14 ranked Itawamba Community College Indians Thursday, Sept. 6, in MACJC football action at Eaton Field in Fulton.
It was the first meeting between the two schools since 2013, when Itawamba defeated the Warriors 40-7 in Fulton.
Trailing by six with 4:40 to play, Itawamba drove from its own 21 to the Warrior 11 before the East Central defense stopped the Indians on four straight plays to preserve the upset. The Warrior offense took over and ran out the remainder of the game clock.
One week earlier, No. 6 ranked Northwest Mississippi scored 14 points in the final three minutes to avoid an upset in a 28-24 win over East Central in a game played in Senatobia.
With the win at Itawamba, East Central improves to 1-1 on the season, while the Itawamba Indians fell to 1-1. Both teams begin MACJC division play next week. East Central hosts South Division foe Southwest Mississippi in its home opener, while Itawamba begins North Division play at home against No. 1 East Mississippi.
For the second straight game, East Central took an early lead. Warrior freshman defensive back Anthony Blakely (Greene County High School) blocked the first two Itawamba punts of the game. Defensive back William Morgan (Northeast Jones) fell on the first punt in the end zone for a Warrior touchdown. The second block also resulted in East Central points as five plays later quarterback Mario Asagunla (Hillcrest Christian, Jackson) tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Torin Hamilton (Starkville Academy) to give the Warriors an early 14-0 lead. The drive was aided by a 30-yard Asagunla to Octavious Olowo-Ake (Murrah, Jackson) pass play.
Following an ICC score, East Central extended its lead on a two-yard pass from Asagunla to freshman wide receiver Depodray Coburn II (Noxapater). The PAT was no good and the lead was 20-7. The drive began with a 52-yard kickoff return by Kevontaye Caston (Trinity Episcopal, Natchez).
The Warriors would tack on one more score before intermission on Asagunla's third touchdown pass of the first half, this time a 16-yard floater to Caston in the corner of the end zone for a 27-7 lead at the half.
East Central forced seven Itawamba punts in the first two quarters, and thwarted another drive when Keonte' Daniels (Noxapater) intercepted an Indian pass on the Warrior nine-yard line in the second quarter.
Itawamba mounted a comeback in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns to close the gap to 27-21. East Central got what would be the game-winning score early in the fourth quarter when Asagunla tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game, this one good for 33 yards to a diving freshman wide receiver Jaylen Zachery (Thurgood Marshall, Dayton, Ohio) in the end zone.
The Indians would get their final points on a three-yard touchdown run by Hiram Wadlington with 9:11 to play before the Warrior defense took over and preserved the victory.
East Central will play its home opener Thursday, Sept. 13, when Southwest Mississippi visits Bailey Stadium in Decatur. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. It is Be Our Guest night and all area high school students will be admitted free to the game.
The game can be heard on WKOZ Cruisin 98.3 or via audio stream and live stream video at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media.