Itawamba Community College’s Jamel Thomas (1) leaps over East Mississippi C.C.’s JaQuez Atkins (9) on a red-zone pass attempt Thursday night in Fulton. Photo by: Lee Adams/ICCImages.com
September 14, 2018 10:26:20 AM
FULTON -- The Itawamba Community College football team has plenty of playmakers.
Whenever it needs a crucial play, it can turn to sophomore Jamel Thomas, a former standout at Caledonia High School, on the perimeter or freshman Hiram Wadlington or fellow running back De'Sean Dinkins out of the backfield.
The variety of options create difficulty for a play-caller. No matter where ICC goes, it can lean on the left side of its offensive line to make it happen.
ICC that often Thursday when it turned to former Columbus High standout Will James at left tackle and former Aberdeen High standout Dejaunte Willis, a sophomore left guard. They played key roles in ICC's scoring plays in a 56-26 loss to No. 1 East Mississippi C.C.
"They have a lot of camaraderie there, and anytime you can keep guys together playing there they kind of know where each other is going and all that," ICC coach Sean Cannon said. "We had two running backs rush for over 100 yards apiece, and that's something East Mississippi probably hasn't given up in a while."
The Indians showed their faith in James and Willis early. More times than not, they were rewarded.
"Maybe they trust us," James said. "I'm a returner, the guy next to me's a returner, the guy on the right side's a freshman and the other guy's a transfer. There's trust going to the left."
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, ICC faced a third-and-2 a matter of seconds after EMCC put points on the board. They trusted James and Willis to down block and to push Lions inside for a run to their outside. The Indians converted. They turned to the same concept on the first play of their third possession to move the chains on the way to a field goal by former Caledonia High standout Caleb Comer.
ICC went all in on that tandem's down blocking late in the second quarter. With a H-Back positioned behind them and a pulling guard on his way, James and Willis cleared the way for Dinkins' 88-yard touchdown run.
Those opportunities to down block are some of the favorites for Willis and James.
"It's something we like to do," James said. "It's something we're proud of when we can work together. It's something we're good at."
Ultimately, they cleared the way for Wadlington's 102 rushing yards and Dinkins' 99.
The Indians trust them to execute more than that. On more than one occasion, ICC threw a screen to that side of the field and trusted James and Willis to get to the perimeter for lead blocks.
"We ask them to do a lot," Cannon said. "We have to keep building on positives, things we do good and work to improve the things we don't do good."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson