November 12, 2017 12:56:03 AM
On a day of big plays, East Mississippi Community College sophomore wide receiver Daniel Crowell Jr. made the one that meant a championship.
Crowell caught a two-point conversion in the front of the end zone to lift the No. 1 East Mississippi Community College football team to a 67-66 victory against No. 4 Northwest Mississippi C.C. in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State championship game at Bobby Franklin Field.
"It was a marathon, a heavyweight fight," EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. "This was one of the sweetest championship wins. We showed the heart of a lion. There was so much character on display. Now we get another opportunity."
EMCC (10-1) won its sixth state championship under Stephens, while remaining perfect in championship games. EMCC also avenged a 61-38 regular-season loss at Northwest Mississippi C.C. roughly one month ago. Northwest Mississippi C.C. (8-2) saw a 16-game home winning streak end.
That regular-season loss dropped EMCC from first to seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings. The long road back to No. 1 was cemented Saturday with the win.
EMCC will play in its sixth Mississippi Bowl on Dec. 3 in Perkinston. The Lions will represent the MACJC in that game and will play for its fourth national championship.
"This team deserves that opportunity," Stephens said. "The last couple of seasons, we have missed out on this chance. Being back in this game is special. I don't think the kids will take this opportunity lightly."
Saturday's game was competitive throughout.
EMCC scored back-to-back touchdowns in the first quarter for a 14-7 lead. The Lions then re-claimed the lead at 20-17 on a 20-yard touchdown run by Ja'Mori Mark. A 33-yard Taylor Crabtree field goal ran the lead to 23-17 at halftime.
The Lions then looked ready to take control when Tyrell Price capped an 80-yard, 13-playd drive to give his team a 30-17 lead on a 1-yard run.
Northwest Mississippi C.C. trailed 37-24 late in the third quarter after Price's third touchdown run. The former Lafayette County High School star leads the NJCAA with 23 rushing touchdowns.
Northwest Mississippi C.C. then ripped off three-straight scores. The go-ahead points were set up after a blocked field goal. The Rangers extended that 38-37 lead on a 51-yard interception return by Turner Rotenberry.
The teams were tied at 45-45 when Northwest Mississippi C.C. drove 75 yards on six plays. JaVonta Payton caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jack Abraham.
EMCC answered when Lindsey Scott Jr. hit Dontario Drummond on a 9-yard touchdown with eight seconds left. Crabtree's kick sent the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, Crowell caught a 19-yard touchdown from Scott. In the second overtime, Scott hit Drummond on a 20-yard touchdown.
This time, Stephens elected for the two-point conversion instead of a kick.
"It was such a battle," Stephens said. "Both defenses had given all they had. Fortunately, the ball bounced our way."
Scott was 29-for-44 for 471 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He also had 104 yards rushing on 20 carries. Price ran for 50 yards on 16 tries. He will need the bowl game to break 1,000 yards for the season.
Drummond led all receivers with 11 catches for 131 yards and three scores. Mike Williams had four catches for 107 yards.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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