Jamari Jones’ 2-point conversion pass was tipped and intercepted by Reginald Barnes Jr. in overtime Saturday as Hinds Community College held off East Mississippi Community College 42-41 in the MACCC football semifinals at Sullivan-Windham Field.
Jontarius Henderson caught a 14-yard pass from Jones with 50 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 35-35 and force overtime. Hinds scored first during the extra session on Jeffrey Pittman’s NJCAA-leading 19th rushing touchdown of the season and fourth of the game. Ben Duncan booted his sixth PAT of the game to give the Eagles a seven-point lead.
The Lions promptly answered by going the 25 yards on six plays, capped by Jones’ 7-yard keeper for his second score of the game. Following a timeout, EMCC decided to go for the win, but Jones’ pass attempt to Jontarius Henderson in the end zone was broken up and intercepted by the Eagles, sending the Lions to their first loss of the season.
The overtime setback marked only the third home loss in 54 games for the Lions since moving into their current home field in 2011.
Hinds’ first interception, by C.J. Johnson at the 12:34 mark of the first quarter, was returned 66 yards for a touchdown to give the visitors the early lead. The Eagles would never trail.
But the game was tied several times. The first tie, early in the third quarter, was provided by Starkville graduate Joshua Aka, who caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jones and the ensuing 2-point conversion pass to make it 14-14.
Jones hit Zach Patterson with a 5-yard scoring pass with 1:32 left in the third for a 21-21 tie, then it was 28-28 after an 18-yard run by Jones. Jones led the Lions’ ground game with 122 yards on 17 carries. Then Jones’ pass to Henderson forced overtime.
Jones finished 24 of 40 for 273 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, who racked up 501 yards of total offense. Henderson was his favorite target, catching six passes for 100 yards.
The Lions (9-1) now await the Nov. 22 release of the NJCAA’s Division I football poll to see if they will get one of the four available in the NJCAA Division I Football Championship semifinals.