By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
A team goal of five wins is now out of the question for Brian Anderson and the East Central Warriors, following their 37-7 loss to Pearl River Community College. However, the Warriors will still have plenty to play for today, as they travel to Gulf Coast to play the spoiler role against the 7-1 Bulldogs.
The 3-5 Warriors have already seen their playoff hopes slip away earlier in the season, but a win today would certainly alter the MACJC playoffs, as it would bounce Gulf Coast from the playoffs.
“It would be amazing,” Anderson said. “It would be a fitting end to the season. Amidst all the the injuries, and the start of the season. This team is probably the one I am the most proud of in my career. Just the fact that they simply would not quit on each other is amazing.
“If you win this ball game, you finish your last six games at 4-2 and finish 3-3 in the South. So there is definitely a lot to play for this week.”
Gulf Coast presents one of the best offenses in the MACJC. The Bulldogs lead the league in rushing offense and are second to only No. 3 ranked East Mississippi in total offense this season.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is Anton Thornton. The sophomore has rushed for 531 yards on 82 carries to go along with his seven touchdowns this season. Gulf Coast also features Jojo Snell and Byron Nettles, who both rank in the top 15 rushers in the league.
“The thing about Gulf Coast is you got to load up against the run,” Anderson said. “When you do that, you have to go one-on-one on the outside, and that stretches out your secondary. They got a big-play receiver in Dhaquille Williams who is better than anybody in the league. They also have a good sophomore quarterback, (Clint Hatten) who does a good job of running their offense, so you have to watch out for that as well.”
A win against Gulf Coast would certainly make the East Central season. However, no matter the outcome, Anderson and the Warriors have plenty of reasons to be excited about next season. East Central will return many key figures on offense, including Martin Johnson and Johnny Beamon who have stepped up in the absence of Keshunn Ship this season.
Perhaps most important of all, the Warriors found out freshman quarterback Colton Kane will return to the team next season. Kane missed the majority of this season due to an injury to his foot. If the quarterback is able to recover and play to his potential, the Warriors will look to make some noise in the South standings in 2013.
“Colton coming back is just huge,” Anderson said. “Last week to see him on the sidelines in his jersey, that was a big positive. You look at the teams that are successful in this league, and it starts with having a good sophomore quarterback.”
Anderson said this team has already established a chemistry unseen to him at the junior college level. The Warriors will not only look to build on that camaraderie into next season, but into today's game as well. A win against Gulf Coast would go a long way into building a successful team in the future. With as crazy as this season has been for East Central, Anderson isn't ruling anything out.
“In this league, anybody can beat anybody,” Anderson said. “We got to go out and play mistake-free football. We have not played our best football game yet, and hopefully we can do that in our last game this season.”