Tigers hope to crash ICC’s party

Northeast Miss Community CollegeBy David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

The Northeast Tigers are looking for a payoff after their tough 2013 football schedule.

That reward could come Thursday if the Tigers can defeat their rival the Itawamba Indians in a key North Division game.

LOGO-ICC-Sports-Logo-copy“This game has implications for both teams,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “Not only is it a huge game, but a big rivalry.”

The area’s premier junior college football rivalry continues Thursday as ICC hosts the contest with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

But Northeast (3-4, 3-1) is looking to crash the Itawamba party.

Both the Tigers and the Indians (5-2, 3-1) are tied for second place in the North standings. And the majority of the playoff scenarios boil down to the winner of this contest finishing second in the division, and earning a playoff spot.

‘In the fire’

Northeast comes off a 59-0 loss to the East Mississippi Lions (7-0, 4-0) last week, certainly a tough way to enter a contest against its rival – and a game with playoff implications.

“It’s kind of like a bad hangover, you tend to feel better as the days go by,” Smither said. “We’ve been in the fire with our schedule this year.

“We’ve played four of the Top 10 teams in the country, and I’m hoping that experience will play a role for us, having played in big games.”

East is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, and Northeast has faced South teams Gulf Coast, Jones County, and Copiah-Lincoln, who have all been ranked in the Top 10. Itawamba was as high as No. 4 two weeks ago, but has slipped to No. 20.

Mitchell Cunningham from North Pontotoc leads the Tigers in rushing at 108.8 yards per game, while Jamel Dennis from Lafayette is tops for Northeast averaging 10.3 tackles per game.