By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – First-year Itawamba Community College head coach Jon Williams has been doing an unfortunate double-take in each of his Indians’ first two home games.
Williams has almost needed to check his roster to make sure the same players who began the game in the first half are back on the field in the second half.
For the second time in as many home contests, the Indians played a solid opening half, then saw the East Mississippi Lions pull away coming out of Thursday night’s intermission for a 37-10 victory.
“There was two different teams out there,” Williams said. “We played pretty good in the first half, but didn’t play as hard in the second half.
“That falls on us as coaches to get these kids to mature. Some of these guys have to grow up.”
In Itawamba’s home opener on Sept. 2 against Hinds, ICC (1-3, 0-1) was within two points at the half, only to lose by three touchdowns. Against East (1-3, 1-1), ICC was within three points at the half, only to lose by three-plus touchdowns.
The Indians began their tale of two halves watching Johnny Cockrell from Columbus return an interception 56 yards for an East touchdown. ICC responded late in the first quarter with a 23-yard field goal by Will Goodwin of Starkville.
While held in check most of the first half, the potent Lions passing game woke up enough to put points on the board in the second quarter as Starkville’s Brad Henderson connected with Hamp Glover for an 11-yard score. Itawamba had an answer for that later in the period as DeShawn McGaughy scored on a 1-yard run, and ICC went into the halftime break trailing 13-10.
“In the first half, our defense was playing good enough to keep us in the game,” Williams said. “But our offense just didn’t produce at all.
“And in the second half, they were better than us in all phases of the game.”
A big third quarter for East put the momentum solidly in its corner, beginning with a period-opening drive of 11 plays. This possession was capped by a Floyd Graves 1-yard score.
Taylor Walker booted a 33-yard field goal to push the East lead to 23-10, just before Indians special teams gave up perhaps the back-breaking score of the contest. Gathering in a bouncing ICC punt, Andre Taylor found a good seal to his right, racing 71-yard for the score with just seconds left in the third quarter.
East then added an 18-yard scoring run by Trayshun King in the fourth period.