November 4, 2017 11:36:33 PM
East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens has said a championship team in a pass-happy league still has to have a quality running back.
Sophomore running back Tyrell Price is trying to prove his coach correct.
Price ran for 105 yards and scored three touchdowns Saturday afternoon to lead No. 3 EMCC to a 24-20 victory against No. 6 Jones County Junior College in the semifinals of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) playoffs at Bobcat Stadium.
"At this stage of the season, you have to be able to run the football," Stephens said. "Championship teams can do it all. You have to be sound in every area. It's not about style points. It's about finding a way to win a game."
EMCC (9-1) will face No. 4 Northwest Mississippi C.C. (8-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Senatobia for the MACJC state championship. Northwest Mississippi C.C. beat No. 12 Hinds C.C. 27-13 in the other semifinal Saturday.
South Division champion JCJC (8-2) saw an eight-game winning streak snapped with the loss.
EMCC will play for its sixth state championships in 10 seasons under Stephens. It also will be EMCC's chance to avenge a 61-38 setback last month in Senatobia.
The MACJC state champion will earn a berth in the Mississippi Bowl. The state champion also could ease into one of the top two spots for a chance to play for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship.
Northwest Mississippi C.C. won the 2015 national title, while EMCC won titles in 2011, 2013, and 2014. Northwest Mississippi C.C. or EMCC has won the last four state championships.
EMCC erased a 14-point second-half deficit to take a 47-34 victory against JCJC in the regular season. EMCC's defense set the tone in the rematch. In the first half, the Lions held on downs twice in inside the red zone. A fumble recovery by Dwayne Pickett Jr. thwarted another scoring chance for the Bobcats.
"The defense was great," Stephens said. "(Defensive coordinator) coach (Cliff) Collins really challenged them. We had some missed assignments (in a regular-season 51-41 victory against Hinds C.C.) last week. Today, much better effort. Everybody was focused, ready to go. It was a physical game, just like the first time with Jones.
"We had a lot of respect for Jones from the first time we played. I think our players responded because they knew this was a big challenge. Jones had three or four fourth-down chances deep in our territory and we got some stops."
EMCC scored first on a 23-yard run by Price with less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Jones tied the game on a 41-yard flea flicker pass.
The Lions responded with a 31-yard field goal by Crabtree and a 4-yard run by Price with 35 seconds left in the half for a 17-7 halftime lead.
JCJC kept battling. Detric Hawthorn capped a 70-yard drive with a 2-yard quarterback sneak with 11 minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
The Lions then held on two possessions before getting the critical put-away score. Price dove in from 2 yards out on fourth down with 2:46 left to play for a 24-14 lead. The former Lafayette County High School standout has a NJCAA-leading 20 rushing touchdowns.
For EMCC, Lindsey Scott Jr. was 18-for-31 for 260 yards. He was intercepted twice. Dontario Drummond had four receptions for 94 yards, while Calvin Keys Jr. had five receptions for 49 yards.
In the other MACJC semifinal Saturday, the Rangers won their 16th-straight home game. Northwest Mississippi C.C. built a 13-0 halftime lead. It stretched that lead to 20-0 before Hinds C.C. (6-3) got on the board.
Turner Rotenberry got things going with a 41-yard interception return for the Rangers. Kevin Perkins then added the first of his two rushing scores. Former Aberdeen standout Jerrick Orr caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jack Abraham, who was 16-for-27 for 255 yards. Perkins ran for 72 yards on 17 tries.
Former Kemper County standout Eric Clark was 9-of-15 passing for 128 yards with two interceptions for the Eagles. D.J. Sims had a rushing score, while Spencer Cole kicked two field goals for Hinds C.C.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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