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With a playoff berth and bragging rights on the line Thursday night in Fulton, the 18th ranked Northeast Tigers dropped a 20-17 heartbreaker to arch rival Itawamba on the gridiron.
Northeast took and early 7-0 lead on running back Jaquise Cook’s (Ripley) one-yard TD plunge at the 5:39 mark in the first quarter. Less than a minute later, the Indians answered with a 43-yard touchdown pass from QB Andy Wilson (Spring, TX) to defensive back Darius Slay (Brunswick, Ga.) to knot the score at 7-7.
RB Jamarcus Goodloe (Leighton, Ala.) put Northeast back on top when he punched it in from three-yards out with 13:40 left in the second. Taylor Earhart (Olive Branch) then stretched the Tigers’ lead to ten after nailing a 34-yard FG before the end of the first half.
However, Tigers’ Head Coach Ricky Smither watched his team’s 17-10 halftime lead slip away in the second half, starting with a 20-yard FG by ICC kicker Will Goodwin (Starkville) with 7:09 left in the third period making the score 17-13.
Northeast was unable to answer in the third frame and lost its lead in the fourth quarter when wide-out William Green (Verona) raced 22 yards for a touchdown with 5:53 remaining, giving the Indians a 20-17 advantage.
Northeast tried to rally late in the final frame when Tiger QB Bryan Steele (Olive Branch) completed a 40-yard pass to WR Jonathan Johnson (West Helena, Ark.) down to the Indian 12-yard line, but the play was nullified when Johnson was penalized for illegal touching since he went out of bounds and then was the first player to touch the ball after re-entering the field of play.
The Tigers’ last chance came and went with 2:12 left on the clock when Steele’s pass to WR Josh Jarboe (Atlanta, Ga.) was batted into the air during a controversial collision between Jarboe and defensive back Tevin Blanchard (Aberdeen) and intercepted by DB LaBradford Rayford (Byhalia).
With the win the Indians improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the north while the Tigers, who were ranked 18th by the National Junior College Athletic Associaion (NJCAA), dropped to 5-3 and 4-2. Northeast has concluded its division play and hosts the eighth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wolves in their regular season finale Thursday, October 28.Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.