The No. 19 ranked East Central Warriors hung tough with No. 1 Gulf Coast for the first 30 minutes of the matchup of MACJC South Division leaders, Thursday, Oct. 10, at Bailey Stadium in Decatur, before the Bulldogs used a pair of second half scores to pull away for the 25-5 win.
Gulf Coast has now won the last three games in the series and 16 of the last 17.
It was Sophomore Night at East Central as 19 Warrior sophomores were honored prior to the game.
With the loss, East Central drops to 4-3 overall on the season and 3-1 in the MACJC South Division. The Warriors face a must-win game next week against Hinds, which also sports a 3-1 division record. The top two teams in each division qualify for the state playoffs.
Gulf Coast is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the South Division.
Two of the nation's best defensive units were on the Warrior Field turf, as East Central came into the contest ranked No. 9 in scoring defense at 13.7 points per game and No. 17 in yards per game. Gulf Coast was giving up just 13.3 points and 172 yards per game to rank No. 8 and No. 2, respectfully.
Gulf Coast put the first points on the scoreboard in the game, going 80 yards in nine plays on its second possession, capped by a 29-yard pass from Chance Lovertich to Jymetre Hester. The point after attempt hit the upright.
The Bulldogs scored again on their next possession, with a 12-play, 89-yard drive and Austin Bolton scoring from the three. The PAT was wide left and Gulf Coast led 12-0.
East Central would get in the scoring column midway through the second quarter with a safety. After reigning National Special Teams Player of the Week punter Robens Beauplan (Lehigh Acres, Fla., Riverdale) pinned the Bulldogs back on five, Lovertich was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. Sophomore defensive tackle Alvin Dempsey (Port St. Joe, Fla.) and freshman nose guard Joshua Ratcliff (Belle Rose, La., Assumption) were applying the pressure on the Gulf Coast quarterback on the play.
As the second quarter was winding down, freshman defensive end John Cartwright (Madison-Ridgeland Academy) tipped a Lovertich pass at the line of scrimmage and Dempsey came down with the interception to set the Warriors up on the Gulf Coast 34-yard line. Beauplan would later kick a 36-yard field goal with 53 seconds to play to make the score 12-5 at the half.
The Warriors were held scoreless in the final 30 minutes, managing only three first downs in the second half and giving up a pair of interceptions. East Central's best scoring chance was a missed 39-yard field goal from Beauplan.
Gulf Coast put the game away with a third quarter score on an 18-yard pass from Lovertich to Jalen Bracey and a fourth quarter 14-yard pass from Lovertich to Hester.
The Warrior defense came up big on several occasions in the second half, stopping Gulf Coast four times on fourth down tries. Two drives ended on big sacks of minus 10 yards by Cartwright and minus 11 yards by sophomore linebacker Ronnie Thomas (Clinton).
The 12 points by Gulf Coast were the fewest it has scored in a first half all season, and the 25 points were the second fewest the Bulldogs have scored in a game this year.
East Central managed just 72 yards on the ground for the game, with sophomore Marq Qualls (Lake) getting 59 of those on six carries. Freshman quarterback Holman Edwards (French Camp Academy) was 12 of 27 through the air for 82 yards.
Beauplan punted eight times for a 45-yard average, including two punts over 60 yards and three downed inside the 11 yard line.
East Central will face its fourth straight ranked opponent when the No. 6 ranked Hinds Eagles visit Decatur on Thursday, Oct. 17. It will be Homecoming on the ECCC campus, with events and activities planned throughout the day. Kickoff is set from 6:30 p.m. in Bailey Stadium, with the 2019 Homecoming Queen to be crowned at halftime.
All East Central home and away football games can be heard on WKOZ "Cruisin" 98.3 radio or at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media. Live stream video of all home games as well as links to the live stream of road opponents can be found at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media.
Vice President for Public Information
East Central Community College