Behind a stingy defense and ball control offense in the second half, the East Central Warriors spoiled Homecoming for the Hinds Eagles with a 17-14 MACJC South Division football win Thursday, Oct. 18, at Gene Murphy Field at Joe Renfroe Stadium in Raymond.
With the win, the Warriors kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a big home matchup next Thursday with South Division leader and No. 7 ranked Jones College.
The Warrior defense held Hinds running back Don Ragsdale to just 58 yards rushing, one week after his 214 yards and two touchdowns on the ground earned him his second MACJC Offensive Player of the Week Award this season.
The first half featured the kickers of both teams, as there were a total of 11 punts.
East Central was the first on the scoreboard, but it wasn't until 9:38 left in the second quarter. Freshman cornerback Fredrick McGee out of Greene County High School stepped in front of a Hinds pass and returned it 25 yards for the score. The PAT by Sam Cox (Starkville Academy) gave the Warriors a 7-0 lead, which they took into intermission.
The Warriors drove to the Eagle eight-yard line with just seconds remaining in the first half before Hinds picked off a Mario Asagunla pass to close out the first half.
After intermission, it was clock management for East Central with a steady dose of running backs sophomore James Smith III (Velma Jackson, Canton) and freshmen Marquavious Qualls (Lake) and Marcus Hooks (St. Petersburg, Fla.).
On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Warriors drove 68 yards in 10 plays. Smith III rushed for 47 of those yards, and Asagunla (Hillcrest Christian, Jackson) got the score from six yards out to give East Central a 14-0 lead.
After a Hinds punt, the Warriors again controlled the ball. This time for 18 plays, 74 yards, and 6:59 off the clock, before Asagunla was intercepted in the end zone.
From there, the Eagles would get their first points of the game on an 80-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard pass from quarterback Eric Clark to Ragsdale for the score. The drive started when Hinds was successful on a fake punt on a fourth and 10 play at their own 41.
East Central answered with another time-consuming drive that took 4:15 off the clock and resulted in a 25-yard field goal by Cox and a 17-7 lead with 8:53 to play in the game.
Hinds answered again on its ensuing possession, going 65 yards in 10 plays. Ragsdale scored from the 20, and the PAT closed the score to 17-14 with 4:22 to play.
As it did the entire second half, the East Central offense was able to hold on to the football and run out the final few minutes of the game for the 17-14 win.
The Hinds offense possessed the football just three times in the deciding second half.
East Central rushed for 244 yards in the game. Qualls led the way with 105 yards on 21 carries, including 72 yards in the second half. Smith III rushed for 72 yards on the night and Hooks had 40 yards, with 36 coming after intermission
Defensively for East Central, safety Keonte' Daniels (Noxapater) picked off two Eagle passes in the first half, and freshman linebacker Elijah Keyes (Mize) had a fumble recovery. The Warriors were credited with nine tackles for a loss in the game, including three by freshman defensive end Payton Rogers of Forest.
With the win, East Central improved to 4-4 overall on the season and 3-2 in MACJC South Division play. Hinds fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the division.
The Warriors will close out their regular season next Thursday, Oct. 25, when the Jones Bobcats visit Bailey Stadium in Decatur. Kickoff for the MACJC South Division game is 6:30 p.m. It will be "Black Out Bailey" night and all Warrior fans are encouraged to wear black 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.