The Tigers host Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the first contest of another two-game home stand. Kickoff between Northeast and the Bulldogs is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.
Northeast has won two straight crucial MACJC North Division games to even its record at 2-2, while the Bulldogs held the top ranking in the nation until its loss to Jones County Junior College last week.
Mississippi Gulf Coast (3-1) enters the matchup at No. 10 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll. They are the second top-10 team that Northeast has faced this season. NE took on then No. 9 Copiah-Lincoln Community College earlier this year.
The Tigers hope the strong play of their offensive line can continue against a defensive adversary that has only accumulated six total quarterback sacks in four contests.
Led by sophomores Romia Wilson and Kortilous Ellis plus fellow starters Michael Davis, Justin Barksdale and Sean Rogers, Northeast has not allowed a sack in the previous two ballgames.
“We’ve just got to execute our responsibility at every position and get to the right guy,” said Northeast offensive line coach Mike Markuson. “The guys have done a lot of good things. Obviously as a coach you want it to be perfect. You want it great every week and it’s not going to be that way, but as long as they’re getting better fundamentally as players then most guys will rise to the occasion.”
Two strong forces will collide on the gridiron when Mississippi Gulf Coast’s ground attack squares off against the Tigers’ defense. The Bulldogs’ running backs combine to average 311 yards per game while Northeast is holding its opponents to just 107.8 yards per contest rushing.
Antwan Wells leads the Mississippi Gulf Coast rushers with 433 total yards and five touchdowns. A dual threat quarterback system of sophomore Colton Kane and freshman Terrian Page has combined for nine scores and two turnovers through four contests.
An experienced defensive backfield for Northeast aims to add to the interception totals of Kane and Page. Five different Tigers have hauled in picks, including Johnny Smith one week ago at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“On the back end we have played well,” Tigers defensive coordinator Travis Macon said. “Those guys up unto this point have played solid. We have had some plays where we’ve had a couple of busts and teams have taken advantage of it, but I feel really comfortable going into this game with them.”
Jamel Dennis continues to produce for the Tigers with an average of 10 tackles per game with seven total tackles for loss (three of them sacks).
Offensively, the Tigers aspire to get their talented running game going again after being held to a season low 173 yards in its last outing. Six Northeast players carried the ball against Northwest, but none of them eclipsed the 50-yard mark.
“We’re always going to run the football so I feel pretty good about what we’re doing,” said Tigers head coach Ricky Smither. “We’re going to try to reestablish it. Coach Markuson has put together a great game plan for us against them.”
Mitchell Cunningham still heads Northeast’s running backs with 94.5 yards per contest, but Corbin White has gotten stronger and made some key carries late in last Thursday’s matchup.
LaVontis Smith intends to build upon the best game of his young career. The freshman from West Oktibbeha High School caught three touchdown passes and had 177 total yards, including a 65-yard connection on a bullet from quarterback Jerrard Randall.
Smith leads the Tigers in total receptions (15), total yards (262) and touchdowns (3).
Mississippi Gulf Coast has won the last eight meetings between the two colleges, including a 61-7 victory last year in Perkinston, and is ahead in the all-time series 22-9-2.
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.