By Dale McKee / Special to the Star
The Meridian Star
The Jones County Junior College Bobcats overcame some key team injuries Saturday to down East Central 46-21 here in their annual Bobcats homecoming contest.
Jones with the win improved to 3-1 in South Division play, still good enough for second place behind division leading Co-Lin (3-0). JCJC is 4-2 overall and will play at Hinds Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. East Central fell to 2-2 in division play and 2-4 overall.
Jones scored twice within a two-minute span early in the second period to take a 20-0 lead, and the Warriors never threatened the Bobcats after that scoring spree. East Central, with serious player injuries of their own, could not muster any consistent offense against the stingy JCJC defense.
Jones lost starting quarterback Ben Stevens for the season last Thursday night on the final play of the Co-Lin game when he broke his collarbone. He will be lost for the season as will the Cats’ leading receiver Taylor Higgason with a knee problem. East Central did not have its No. 1 running back in Keshun Shipp here Saturday and earlier in the season lost its starting quarterback Colton Kane.
Freshman quarterback Ethan Hamilton stepped in for JCJC ,and the Bobcats’ offense did not miss a beat. The Bobcats had no turnovers as Hamilton passed for two scores and completed 7-of-13 passes for 133 yards. Making his first start, Hamilton also added 32 yards on the ground. The Bobcats leaned on the running game more with Hamilton, who led Noxapater to the MHSAA Class 1A championship last year, at the controls. Rueben Ducksworth shouldered the load as he rushed for 158 yards on 20 carries and scored twice.
JCJC rushed for 211 yards on 44 carries.
“Jones is a good football team,” said East Central head coach Brian Anderson. “They do not beat themselves. For us, today was a disappointment. We did not come here to lose the game, but it is not just about today. We have to look at the whole picture, and I think in the last three weeks some good things have been happening at East Central. We will get back to practice Monday and get back to working to get ready for Delta next Saturday.”
The Bobcats began the scoring on their opening offensive series as they moved from their own 47-yard line to the Warriors’ 4-yard line before the drive stalled. Ducksworth carried most of the load as he ran five times in the eight-play drive. Grant McLaurin was called on and drilled a 21-yard field goal to give JCJC a 3-0 lead with 10:36 left in the period.
JCJC upped their margin to 6-0 at the 4:28 mark of the opening period when McLaurin kicked a 41-yard field goal. The Bobcats drove from their own 45 to the Warriors’ 24-yard line in seven plays before being halted again by the Warriors’ defense.
Hamilton bulled his way 22 yards to jump start the Bobcats’ first touchdown of the day. Ducksworth, from Mount Olive, ran five times in the seven-play drive, scoring the TD on a one-yard run. McLaurin, a FCAHS grad, kicked the conversion, and JCJC led 13-0 with 11:09 to play in the half.
Linebacker Marion Chapman, of Wayne County, set up the next Cats touchdown with an interception at the Warriors’ 30-yard line. Three plays later, Hamilton hit Dylan Bossier on a 25-yard pass play to give JCJC a 20-0 lead with 9:53 to play in the half. Bossier caught two passes for 88 yards, and both receptions would be for scores.
East Central moved 73 yards in 11 plays to score on a fourth-down run of 31 yards by Brock Hall. The Warriors converted two fourth-down plays on the drive. Hall ran 17 yards to convert the first fourth-down conversion and then ran 31 yards to score on a fourth-and-1 play. Austin Franklin kicked the conversion with 3:41 to play in the half as the Bobcats led 20-7 at intermission.
Hamilton and Bossier teamed up again this time on a 63-yard TD pass at the 7:03 mark of the third period. The Bobcats drove 76 yards in four plays for the score, and McLaurin’s kick upped the home team’s lead to 27-7.
Chapman set up another touchdown for the Bobcats when he recovered a Warrior fumble at the 15. Four plays later, Florence native Jovontae Thurmon bulled 1 yard for EC. Thurmon kept the drive alive with an 11-yard catch from Hamilton on third-down-and-7 from the 12. McLaurin made it 34-7 with a kick conversion with 2:32 to play in the third period.
Early in the final period, Corey Trim intercepted a pass for Jones, and the Bobcats started at the Warriors’ 25. Six plays later, Ducksworth scored on a 7-yard run. The kick failed, but JCJC led 40-7 with 12:41 to play in the game.
East Central scored with 10:36 to play in the game when Hall hit Ricky Hunt on a 57-yard TD pass to close the gap to 40-14. Hall ran 18 yards for the final Warrior points on the day with 4:26 to play on another fourth-and-9 play. Petal’s Franklin added another conversion, making the score 40-21.
JaMichael Willis took the onside kickoff and rumbled 40 yards for a score with 4:20 to play in the game and upped the Bobcats’ lead to 46-21 to end the scoring on the day.
East Central rushed for 184 yards and passed for 139 yards on the day but turned the ball over three times.