Tigers’ mistakes prove costly in overtime

BOONEVILLE – First game mistakes will haunt the Northeast Mississippi Community College Tigers from their 2009 opener.
They kept the Tigers from a season-opening victory.
And they kept head coach Ricky Smither from winning his first contest on the field at Northeast.
The Tigers fought the good fight Thursday, but in the end fell victim to the Hinds Eagles 16-7 in overtime.
“I knew we were young, and I knew we would make mistakes,” said Smither, who has 42 first-years players on the Tigers roster. “I just hoped we wouldn’t make them at key times.”
The Tigers teased the faithful with hopes of a win, only to come up short.
Toward the end of the fourth quarter, Northeast took the ball from its own 25-yard line to the Hinds 2-yard line on a nine-play drive. Two nice completions by freshman quarterback Clint Wilson – who passed for 188-yards – highlighted effort.
But with 33 seconds leftin regulation, the Tigers saw a 15-yard field goal blocked, and the contest was headed for overtime tied at 7-7.
Hinds got the first possession in the OT, but failed to score as the Tigers defense – perhaps the star of the Northeast effort – kept the Eagles out of the end zone. Hinds was forced to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Jared Thames.
On Northeast’s second play of its overtime offensive possession, a ball that could have been considered a dump pass, was ruled a backwards pass and fumble. An Eagle defender scooped up the football, racing 75 yards for the touchdown, and ending the Tigers’ hope of winning.
“The defense played well as a unit, and only broke once,” Smither said. “They gave us a chance to win.”
The Northeast offense showed some positive signs also, highlighted by Wilson’s passing, and the 149 yards rushing by New Albany’s Jeremy Cannon. The Tigers first possession of the game was a 16-snap effort, only two penalties and a sack forced Northeast to punt.
Eventually, Hinds scratched the scoreboard first as quarterback Denzel Smith sneaked in from 1-yard out on the third play of the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Early in the third quarter, John Brown fell on a Hinds fumble for the Tigers, setting up Northeast’s only TD. That came three plays later as Wilson zipped a 19-yard pass to Eric Knowlton for the touchdown, and Northeast was tied at 7-7.
Northeast missed at least two other scoring opportunities. The Tigers fumbled into the end zone in the second quarter, and missed a 37-yard field goal in the third period.

David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal