DECATUR — J.D. Martin and Marq Qualls are becoming quite the tandem.

The two running backs rushed for nearly 200 yards to help lead East Central Community College past Itawamba Community College 34-14 at Bailey Stadium on Thursday night.

“We have two really good backs, and we’re trying work in others, but any time you want to have a winning football team you have to be able to run the ball,” seventh-year East Central head coach Ken Karcher said. “We felt the kids responded well. It was good to get that win, but we have a lot to clean up and get better at.”

The Warriors (1-1) didn’t score on their first four possessions of the game and only had one first down. 

But after that, things started clicking.

Martin broke several tackles and scampered 69 yards to the end zone for the game’s first score with 11:22 left in the second quarter to put East Central up 7-0.

On the next Warrior possession, Holman Edwards hit tight end Joshua Pedyfoot on a 34-yard touchdown pass to extend the ECCC lead to 14-0 with 8:17 left.

“J.D. gave us some momentum with the long run, and then we scored on a touchdown pass and gave us a spark,” Karcher said. “Our guys started to believe, and momentum carried over into the second half.”

Martin ended the night with 119 yards on 14 carries with the touchdown. Qualls tallied 70 yards rushing on 22 carries and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors a 34-7 lead.

“They’re a great tandem, and in our offense, we’ve always had three backs, so we are still trying to find our third,” Karcher said. “We feel really good about them two.”

The Warriors had 324 yards of total offense, 221 of which came on the ground.

Holman had 103 yards passing with two touchdowns. His second touchdown pass went to Ray Thomas from 6 yards out off a muffed punt.

The East Central defense held Itawamba to just 124 yards total rushing and intercepted two passes. Robens Beauplan hit a pair field goals for the Warriors from 30 and 33 yards out.

“Moving forward, it’s all about us getting better. Tomorrow is about getting in the film room and seeing where we can fix things,” Karcher said. “That’s what we have to do so we can win down the road.”

Clark Mills went 29 of 59 in passing for 281 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Itawamba. 

Qua Davis had a 23-yard touchdown catch, and Hiram Wadlington had a 3-yard touchdown run for the Indians (0-2).

“We were stopping them early and couldn’t get an answer on offense and then they bust a big run for a touchdown,” Itawamba head coach Sean Cannon said. “They are a well-coached football team, and we made too many mistakes with dropped passes and pressures on the quarterback. We have to move forward and get better because the real stuff starts next week with division play.”

Next week, both teams open MACJC division play as East Central travels to Southwest, while Itawamba travels to East Mississippi.

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