PERKINSTON — In absolutely dominating performance here Thursday night, Mississippi Gulf Coast destroyed Jones 35-8 to claim its second consecutive South Division championship.
It was easily the Bulldogs' best game of the season.
"No question," Gulf Coast head coach Jack Wright said. "We got a lot of stops in the game, and a lot of short fields. Just by every measure up front, we won the game up front of both sides of the line of scrimmage. Our skill guys made plays. There just aren't enough compliments to go around for everybody."
The Bulldogs (5-0) completed a second straight undefeated regular season to earn the 17th division championship in school history. They can win a 17th state title in the MACCC Championship game against Northwest Mississippi. It will be played in Perkinston on Dec. 5 at a time to be announced.
Gulf Coast has won 21 straight games, one short of the school record set from 1970-72. The Bulldogs narrowed the game in one of only two MACCC series they're below .500. Jones is 46-45-6 in the all-time series.
The stat sheet revealed the depth of domination. As Wright mentioned, The Regulators allowed Jones (3-2) to convert only 2 of 11 third downs. Gulf Coast was 13-of-19.
The Bulldogs racked up 526 yards of total offense, allowing just 199. The Bobcats gained 120 of those on two plays, meaning on the other 51 they managed just 79. Gulf Coast ran 80 plays, averaging 6.6 yards per snap.
Jones lost 27 yards in the rushing game, averaging negative-1.0 yards per carry.
"You do not win football games consistently without being able to run the football and stopping the run," Wright said. "For two straight years, we have stopped the run. That's a credit to a lot of really good football players over there. They have plenty of size and plenty of speed, but they also have intangibles. They have confidence, they have some swagger, they have a lot of leaders that will bring the young guys along over there."
Gulf Coast linebacker Navonteque Strong (So., Scott Central/Forest) lived in the Bobcats backfield. He finished with four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks among his eight tackles. The Bulldogs piled up 11 tackles for loss and six sacks, with Mike Smith (So., Ridgeland/Flora) grabbing two sacks of his own.
"I wanna thank my defensive line," Strong said. "They won the line of scrimmage almost every play and allowed me to get back there and make some plays."
Gulf Coast scored the game's first 35 points. After a scoreless first quarter, the Bulldogs broke the scoring ice on the first of Philip Short's four touchdown passes. He hit Jalen Bracey with a 36-yard strike with 10:49 to play.
Short, a freshman from Flowood, Miss., seemed to break Jones' back with two-minute drill to end the half. The Bulldogs went 80 yards in five plays, with Jymetre Hester (So., Glades Central/Belle Glade, Fla.) hauling in a 68-yard scoring strike 67 seconds before the end of the half.
"The offensive linemen gave great protection and gave me a lot of time," Short said. "That allowed me to try to pick the defense apart. The receivers ran great routes. Their IQ was up tonight, because they knew when to sit in zones and keep going against man. Just little things like that allowed us to win tonight."
Jalen Bracey (So., Murrah/Jackson) had 10 catches for a season-high 158 yards. An amazing seven of his catches resulted in first downs.
When the Bobcats went three-and-out to start the second half, K.T. Hicks (Fr., Petal/Petal) caught a 9-yard touchdown pass three minutes later for a 21-0 lead. Deondre House (So., Senatobia/Senatobia) capped an 11-play, 84 yard drive later in the third with a 5-yard run.
That was the exclamation mark on a gutty night. He missed the Southwest game with an injury but ran for 150 yards on 32 rugged carries to extend his MACCC rushing lead. House has 607 on 89 carries, averaging over 40 yards a game more than the next back.
"I knew once Deondre got in there and had a little adrenaline flowing, got hit a couple of times that he would be fine," Wright said. "Kudos for him for him having the confidence to overcome the injury and perform like we all know he can."
Hicks got his second score of the night early in the fourth on a 5-yard pass for a 35-0 lead. He finished with 78 yards on five catches.
Short completed 23-of-38 passes for 362 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Jones was able to avoid the shutout with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 11:11 to play. But the Bobcats got nothing else.
Northwest (5-0) clinched the North title with a 44-6 drubbing of Mississippi Delta on Thursday. It sets up a rematch of last year's title game, won by Gulf Coast 22-19 in Senatobia.
"I know enough about that whole program, the coaching staff, to tell you they're going to be physical. They're going to be really good on defense. There won't be anything that comes easy. It'll be a great game. I understand how hard this league is, and I'm tickled to death to be back in the championship game."
MGCCC South Titles
Gulf Coast has won 17 MACCC South championships:
1971, 1974, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, 2020
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
By: Don Hammack
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College