FULTON – Ricky Woods had quite an idea.
After watching his Northwest Community College Rangers scratch and claw their way to a 14-0 halftime lead over Itawamba on Thursday night, the Rangers’ second-year head coach figured “Why not open up the offense?”
Good thinking, coach.
No. 19 Northwest took complete control after the break, scoring three third-quarter touchdowns to turn the 14-point lead into a 35-0 rout of the homestanding Indians.
ICC “played outstanding defense in the first half, taking away our running game,” Woods said. “So we came out in the second half and decided to put the game into our quarterback’s hands.”
Sophomore QB Casey Weston threw for 195 yards and four scores, including a pair of third-quarter strikes to wideout Colton Barnett. The duo connected from 31 and 4 yards away in the third, doubling Northwest’s lead to 28-0.
“He’s a great player,” Woods said of the nation’s leading community college passer, who’s from Pratt-ville, Ala. “He really took command and helped us stretch the lead.”
For a half, head coach Jeff Terrill’s Indians successfully slowed the Rangers’ high-powered attack, keeping Weston and his receivers on the sideline for most of the first half as the Indians’ offense kept the ball for 22 of 30 minutes through the first two quarters. Unfortunately, the Indians were unable to cash in on scoring opportunities. Twice, ICC drove the ball inside the Northwest 10-yard line, coming away away empty both times.
‘Too many mistakes’
“We just made too many mistakes,” Terrill said of his Indians, who were missing six starters due to injury or illness. “You can’t continue to make mistakes and expect to beat a very good football team. That’s a dynamic offense over there, and we gave them too many chances.”
That dynamic Northwest offense wasted little time in asserting itself, as Weston connected with wideout Michael Lindsay for a 55-yard TD on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Kevin Buford’s PAT gave Northwest the early 7-0 lead.
Weston and Lindsay hooked up again early in the second quarter, this time from 13 yards out to push the lead to 14-0.
Despite playing well offensively, ICC was unable to cut into the deficit before the break.
“I was pleased with the way we played at times,” Terrill said, “but we have to get better at scoring when we have the chance.”
The Indians once again struggled to take care of the ball, turning the ball over five times for the second straight week.
Three of those turnovers occurred in the third quarter, helping Northwest to score 21 points in the period to put the game away. Southaven freshman Calvin Malone closed the scoring for the Rangers, sprinting in from five yards out to push the cushion to 35-0.
“That’s a very good football team over there,” Terrill said. “We made too many mistakes and they made us pay.”
Northwest limited ICC to just 49 second half yards, while Weston led the Ranger offense to 222 yards after the break.
Now 1-3 overall and 0-2 in MACJC North Division play, Terrill and the Indians face a long, hard climb to get back into contention for a postseason berth.
“I know people hear this all the time, but it’s true,” Terrill said. “We just have to take it one game at a time in order to get this thing turned around. A win next week would go a long way toward healing what’s wrong with us.”
ICC will be at home again Thursday night, hosting Mississippi Delta (1-3).
Brandon Walker/NEMS Daily Journal