The Tigers will visit Senatobia tonight and face Northwest Mississippi Community College. Kickoff between the two rivals is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Bobby Franklin Field.
It’s a matchup of two of the three Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division co-leaders after both squads won their respective league openers last week. Northeast held off Holmes while the Rangers travelled to Clarksdale and beat Coahoma.
However, Northwest is ineligible to qualify for the playoffs this year after receiving sanctions from the MACJC for oversigning student athletes to National Letters of Intent.
Northeast head coach Ricky Smither still believes the Rangers are a very formidable foe that will present some issues for his team.
“Northwest can be very dangerous,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of obstacles in front of us. But it’s like I said the other day in the pep rally that every difficulty brings an opportunity. We look forward to the task.”
The match will pit the two of the top statistical rushing leaders in the MACJC. Northwest’s Damian Baker leads the conference and is third among National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) football members with 126 yards per game on the ground with four touchdowns and zero fumbles lost.
The Tigers counter with their hard-nose runner Mitchell Cunningham. The Ecru native averages 118.3 yards each contest, good for sixth in the nation, and recorded his first score in last week’s win over Holmes.
D’Montrise Swinney is tied for fourth for the most receiving touchdowns countrywide with four in three games to lead the Rangers (1-2, 1-0) receiving core.
Northwest also boasts the week three MACJC Special Teams Player of the Week in Marcel Newson, who returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Coahoma.
These playmakers for the Rangers will come against a Northeast defense that is coming off its best performance yet of the 2013 campaign. The Tigers held visiting Holmes to only 149 yards and came away with a huge stop late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
Led by an experienced group of linemen, Northeast (1-2, 1-0) compiled seven tackles for loss – four of them by Ripley’s Razean Prather - and five sacks.
“We knew on paper we’ve got probably one of the best defenses in the state, but on the playing field we just weren’t showing that. The other night in the second half, they showed that,” said Smither.
Former Lafayette County star Jamel Dennis continues to pace the Tigers defense with a team-high in tackles (32) and sacks (3).
Quarterback Jerrard Randall continues to do an excellent job of finding different receivers. Chandler Dexter had a game-high two catches for 26 yards versus Holmes.
A different player has led the Tigers in catches each week so far. Against Jones County it was Demarrion Haynes, while Ricky Parks did so in the opener at Co-Lin.
Smither is just as concerned about his own squad entering another crucial division matchup and hopes they can start to eliminate mistakes such as turnovers. Northeast has committed eleven in three games.
“Right now, it’s really not who we’re playing. It’s us battling ourselves,” the Tigers headman said. “It’s like I told the guys all week, ‘I don’t care who we’re playing. We could be out here scrimmaging. We’ve got to figure out how to not beat ourselves like we’ve been doing.’”
The Rangers won a defensive battle played in Booneville last year 19-13 and also lead the all-time series 34-17-2.
For the second year in a row, WNAU-AM out of New Albany is the home of Northeast Tiger football on the airwaves. Join Jeremy Kennedy, the Voice of the Tigers, at 6:15 p.m. for the pregame show by setting your radio dial to 1470 AM.
Those that cannot pick up the broadcast in their area can still listen to the Tigers by webcast. A link to WNAU-AM’s live Internet stream is available on the Northeast athletic website, www.nemccathletics.com.
Fans not in attendance can also keep up to date during the contest with live in-game updates at the new home of Northeast sports on Twitter by searching and following @NEMCCTigers.