The NMCC Eagles came back from an early 16-0 deficit to upset the seventh-
ranked Charleston Bluejays 24-22 on Friday at New Madrid.
"That's a big game for both schools," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley, of the biggest win in his two-year tenure. "We owed 'em. We've been sitting there the last few years kind of stymied against them."
Said Charleston coach Al Marshall, "They did a good job. Coach Pixley was well prepared. They took away some things we do well and forced us to do some things we aren't comfortable doing."
Then at 4:17 of the first quarter, Charleston quarterback Josh Marshall lofted a perfect pass over the middle to wide-open Bobby Clark who out-ran the NMCC defenders for an 8-0 Bluejay lead, 9-0 following Dustin Allen's extra-
With a little over a minute to go in the first period, Charleston struck again on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to 6-foot-5 tight end Jamarcus Williams. Allen's kick sent the Bluejays to a 16-0 advantage.
Looking every bit the favorite, it appeared Charleston (3-1) was well on its way to victory over the Eagles, a program that struggled to a 1-9 record in 2004.
However, NMCC, with running backs Printice Willis and Antonio McIntosh ripping off nice gains, put together a time-consuming, ball control drive. At the 6:21 mark of the second quarter, on a 4th-and-16 at the Charleston 23, scrambling sophomore quarterback Leslie Williams hit wideout Tommy Rowe in the corner of the end zone. Willis' two-point conversion run cut the margin to 16-8.
"Our game plan was--we had to stick it down their throat," said Pixley, of NMCC's ball control offense. "No ifs, ands or buts about it, we talked all week long about having that kind of attitude.
"We're mainly an outside running team, but I think we proved tonight that we can hammer people inside when we need to."
Another strong defensive series, in which the Eagles were able to pressure Marshall for negative yardage, forced a punt from the Charleston 8.
Said Pixley, "Defensively, we're getting a little bit more comfortable, we're getting off blocks better and starting to get to the football."
A short kick gave the Eagles possession at the Bluejay 32. A 4th-and-7 conversion from the Bluejay 29 on a 13-yard pass from Leslie Williams to Marquese Gates was the key play in the drive, culminated by Williams' 16-
yard touchdown strike to Gates. Antonio McIntosh's two-point conversion run knotted the score at 16-16, the halftime score.
As the teams returned from halftime, the disparity in moods on each sideline was apparent; NMCC celebratory, Charleston rather stoic.
Coach Marshall agreed that his team may have come in a bit overconfident.
"All week long, I preached and preached against that," he said, "but all coaches can do is teach it, you can't make them (players) do it. Once they read all the stuff in the papers, it's hard to take those thoughts out of their minds. They thought we were invincible."
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, NMCC's Willis ran through a gaping hole on the left side of the line for a 71-yard touchdown jaunt. McIntosh's two-point conversion run, for what proved to be the game-
winning points, sent the Eagles ahead 24-16.
Charleston's last-gasp comeback effort came late in the fourth quarter. NMCC fumbled at 1:02 remaining with Charleston recovering on the Eagle 46. "That's what happens with youth and inexperience," said Pixley. "It's going to get interesting at times."
A 45-yard pass from Marshall to wide receiver Justin Clark set the Bluejays up at the NMCC 1 with 41 seconds remaining.
Marshall promptly dove in on a quarterback sneak, cutting the margin to 24
A pass attempt on the two-point conversion to tie fell incomplete, leaving the Eagles just 38.3 seconds away from victory. Two snaps and two knee drops closed out the win.
Said Pixley, "We've come in, since last season, with our backs against the wall in just about every ballgame and I think our kids have finally realized that hard work, effort, determination and getting physical is starting to pay off. "The bottom line is, we're fortunate to get out of here with a win."
It was a penalty-filled game in which both teams drew double-digit infractions. Charleston was flagged 15 times for 125 yards; NMCC, 13 for 100.
"There were a lot of messy penalties on both sides of the ball and that surprised me because we were both pretty clean last week," Pixley said. NMCC will try to keep its winning ways -- two in a row -- at Caruthersville on Friday, while Charleston looks to get back on track with a home game against Malden, also on Friday.
Said a concerned Al Marshall, "We've got some kids who are competitive, if things are up, and we've got some who will give you all they've got, no matter what. This (loss) is going to make us do some soul-searching and find who are the wannabes and who's for real."