Tigers, Indians meet with playoffs at stake

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – Northeast’s Ricky Smither is not concerned with possible tiebreakers, points differentials or any formulas connected with the settling of second place in the MACJC North Division.
Smither’s Tigers (5-2, 4-1), No. 18 in this week’s NJCAA rankings, play rival Itawamba (4-3, 3-1) at 7 tonight at ICC’s Butch Lambert Stadium.
“If we win, we go to the playoffs,” he said. “We lose, we’re out.”
If the Tigers lose they’ll end the regular season with a 4-2 division mark. Their final game is scheduled Oct. 28 against non-division foe Co-Lin.
ICC, if it wins, would have one remaining division game against North leader Northwest the same day. A loss to the Rangers would put the Indians in a tie with Northeast.
The MACJC would have to go to a tiebreaker formula to determine the North’s No. 2 entry in the postseason.
“It’s kind of complicated,” ICC coach Jon Williams said. “For us, the easy scenario is to win the next two and we’ll win (the North).
“We just gotta win, that’s the bottom line. I don’t care about playoff implications. If we make it, that’s fine. This is the Egg Bowl for us.”
On the playing field, the Tigers have gone with a new quarterback – freshman Bryan Steele – the last two weeks and the move has produced winning results.
Steele completed 14 of 17 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown in the Tigers’ 31-17 win Saturday against Coahoma. His favorite target was Josh Jarboe, who had seven catches for 78 yards.
“(Steele) has done an excellent job,” Smither said. “He was a safety in high school, but when he came to a tryout we liked what we saw when he threw the ball.
“He’s a great athlete. You can see his quarterback skills developing. The main thing is he needs reps. Every game he’s going to get better.”
Steele, who stepped in two weeks ago when sophomore started Clint Wilson quit, tried out at ICC before heading to Booneville.
“We had already signed three quarterbacks,” Williams said. “We knew he was a good player. You can tell by watching film that he manages the game well.”
The Tigers’ offense also features running back Jaquise Cook, who rushed for 129 yards against Coahoma. Two weeks ago, the former Ripley standout rushed for 267 yards and scored four touchdowns against East Mississippi and was named the National Player of the Week by the NJCAA.
ICC’s using a two-quarterback rotation with Andy Wilson and Canden Dallas sharing snaps. Williams said whoever has the “hot hand” in practice gets the start.
Last week, in the Indians’ 33-20 win against Holmes, Wilson completed 21 of 26 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
“Both of them are helping us,” Williams said. “We’re going to stay with what’s working.”

Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.

Last 10 Meetings
2000: ICC 45-14
2001: ICC 24-14
2002: Northeast 35-19
2003: ICC 34-31
2004: Northeast 24-13
2005: Northeast 41-0
2006: ICC 29-24
2007: ICC 20-13
2008: ICC 12-9
2009: Northeast 28-21