NMCC appeared to have the game wrapped up at several points, but Caruthersville didn't go away, outscoring the Eagles 13-3 in the final quarter to pull out the win.
"Our kids woke up after letting that Hayti game get away (last week)," said Caruthersville coach David Gilmore. "I think that really helped us tonight. (NMCC) has some tremendous athletes. When you put it down on paper, there's probably no way we should have won this ballgame. But our kids are learning how to win now."
With the victory, Caruthersville improves to 4-1 overall and jumps into the driver's seat of the SEMO Central Conference with a 3-0 record.
"I can't say enough about our kids and the heart they put out tonight," said Gilmore. "They wanted this victory. They knew it was going to be an uphill battle all night."
NMCC could point to a few questionable calls, and several blown non-calls, but head coach Steve Rogers offered up no excuses.
"The kids played hard, but we probably didn't play well enough to win," said Rogers. "We scored 30 points. That should have been plenty against them. We jump out on them 14-0, but just kind of let them stay in the ballgame. They took full advantage of it. They've got a good team and have some good offensive weapons."
The game featured the top two running backs in the area with Caruthersville's Jimmy Jackson and NMCC's Remond Willis. Jackson finished with 135 yards on 25 carries and Willis had 156 yards on 28 attempts.
While both backs lived up to their hype, Jackson had the better finish, scoring the Tigers' final two touchdowns.
With just seven minutes left, and Caruthersville trailing by nine, Jackson caught a screen pass from quarterback Rogers VanAusdall and took it 41-yards for a touchdown to shave the lead down to 30-27.
On NMCC's following drive, a Willis fumble was recovered by Caruthersville's Plessie Ellitt on the Eagle 45. The Tigers marched 41 yards on five plays, setting up a four-yard TD run by Jackson to put Caruthersville up 34-30 with 2:19 left.
NMCC threw four incomplete passes on the following drive, turning the ball back over to the Tigers. VanAusdall ran out the clock with three quarterback kneels to give Caruthersville the impressive win.
"Defensively, we came up big when we needed to," said Gilmore. "This win right here is going to set the tone for the second half of our season and get us prepared for districts."
The game looked like a blowout early in the first quarter. The Eagles opened the game with a squib kick, which was recovered by NMCC's Mack Kimble on the Caruthersville 32. That set up a 25-yard touchdown run by Willis on the Eagles' third play from scrimmage.
On Caruthersville's next drive, Larry Kirby intercepted a VanAusdall pass at the Tiger 10.
A holding call pushed the Eagle offense back 10 yards, then quarterback Darrel Newsom hooked up with Edgar Givens for a 20-yard TD pass to make it 14-0.
"After they scored 14 points, I called the kids over and told them this game could go two ways," explained Gilmore. "You can either lie down and (NMCC) will put you to sleep early, or we can fight back as a team and get back into this ballgame."
Caruthersville's offense responded to the challenge. After driving 49 yards in three minutes, VanAusdall found Dominic Branch in the corner of the end zone for a 16-yard TD pass to make it 14-7.
The Tiger defense then rose to the challenge in the second quarter, forcing NMCC to punt from its own 18.
After the punt was partially blocked, a Caruthersville player appeared to catch the ball, but fumbled it away. An NMCC player dove on the loose ball for the apparent first down, but the officials ruled the ball dead, giving Caruthersville the ball on the Eagle 20.
"They said that he never had possession of the ball," said Rogers.
The Tigers took full advantage of the excellent field position, tying the score 14-14 on a 5-yard TD pass to Branch. The Eagles tried to regain the lead before halftime, but ran out of time on the Caruthersville 5.
NMCC came out throwing the ball in the second half as Newsom found Kimble for a 40-yard TD pass to make it 21-14. VanAusdall immediately answered the score with a 52-yard TD strike to Branch to make it 21-21.
The Eagles retook the lead on the ensuing possession with an eight-play drive, capped off by a three yard TD run by Kirby to make it 27-21.
Caruthersville looked to answer the score again, driving all the way down the field. A two-yard TD run by Jackson was called back for holding, then Willis picked off a VanAusdall pass, returning it 46 yards.
In that series, Kimble suffered a concussion and was taken off the field by ambulance.
"It was a concussion for sure," said Rogers. "I think he was out for a little bit."
After the long delay, NMCC added to its lead as Brandon Fields booted a 28-yard field goal to make it 30-21 with seven minutes left. It proved to be not enough as Jackson scored the two late touchdowns, giving Caruthersville a 34-30 win.
"That one run (Jackson) made where the ball flopped out, and he pinned it behind his back was something," said Gilmore. "He's one of the best backs in the state. He's probably one of the best players I've ever coached."
On the night, VanAusdall threw for 210 yards with four TD passes. Branch had five receptions for 96 yards with three TDs. Jackson had two catches for 47 yards and Kyle Hubbard had two for 43. Freddie Rogers also had a catch for 24 yards. "Last week against Hayti, we threw for 300 yards," said Gilmore. "We haven't really been slowed down yet on offense. We're averaging close to 500 yards a game and 43 (points per game) coming in. If you give us a minute with the ball, we can do a lot of things."
Newsom also had a solid day for NMCC, throwing for 136 yards on 6-of-14 passing. Givens had four catches for 61 yards and Kimble caught two passes for 75.
NMCC falls to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEMO Central. "It's a tough loss, but it's not the end of the world," said Rogers. "We're going to bounce back. We'll be ready to go next Friday."
Caruthersville will travel to St. Vincent on Friday while NMCC plays host to Sikeston.