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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eagles slip past Cape Central

Sunday, September 10, 2006

(Photo)
New Madrid County Central running back Marquese Gates avoids a Cape Central tackle.
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- New Madrid County Central coach Arlen Pixley's pre-

game prediction of a tight game proved to be on the money.

The NMCC Eagles, who improved to 2-0, held on to edge the Cape Central Tigers 32-30 on Friday night at Houck Stadium.

"We knew it was going to be a battle," said Pixley. "It's always a close game here. We're just very happy to get out of here with a win."

The winning points tallied on Leslie Williams' 60-yard interception return elicited boos from Cape Central fans who wanted a pass interference call on the play.

(Photo)
New Madrid County quarterback Leslie Williams, right, sets up to hand off to Dylan Harris.
"It's in the rules, if you trip on your own, it's not pass interference," said Pixley. "He (receiver) ran right into the defender. It's a legit call."

Cape Central coach Lawrence Brookins took a philosophical approach to the non-call.

"You can look at it either way," he said. "I always look back at other points in the game where we could dictate our own fate and that call wouldn't make a difference."

Williams' return gave the Eagles a little breathing room at 32-23 with 1:02 remaining.

Eagle mistakes were largely responsible for keeping the Tigers in the game. Two errant punt snaps and a fumble led to 16 Cape points.

"We really wanted to keep it (ball) out of their hands," said Pixley. "You can't give Cape any more opportunities than they're supposed to get. They're a young, dangerous ballclub with speed to burn. They can play, skill-wise, with anybody in Southeast Missouri right now."

With NMCC up 8-0 on Marquese Gates' 50-yard touchdown gallop and Williams conversion run, the first bad snap, which rolled through the end zone, put the Tigers on the board with a safety.

After receiving the ensuing free kick from the 20, Cape began a scoring drive at the NMCC 49 which culminated with quarterback Blake Slattery's 1-yard sneak with 7:45 to go in the second quarter for the Tigers' only lead of the game at 9-8.

The Eagles retaliated with DeAnton Brown's 9-yard touchdown dash at the tail end of an 80-yard drive for a 14-9 halftime edge.

A 41-yard TD pass from Williams to Tommy Rowe early in the third quarter lifted the Eagles to a 20-9 lead, then another Williams' TD toss, a 13-yarder to tight end Woody Smelser, pushed the margin to 26-9.

While the Eagles scored on both of their third quarter possessions, the NMCC defense held Cape to just four yards of offense in two three-and-out possessions and it appeared the rout was on.

But an Eagle fumble at the Cape 34 with 41 seconds to go in the third quarter reversed momentum. On the first play from scrimmage, speedy tailback Hykeem Hammonds' 65-yard untouched run to paydirt cut the lead to 26-15.

Then, on the Eagles first possession of the fourth period, a second bad snap from the midfield stripe handed the Tigers possession at the NMCC 23-yard line. Cape capped a five-play drive on Hammonds' 6-yard TD. Slattery's 2-

point conversion pulled the Tigers to 26-23 with 7:28 left.

"Our pride is stinging a little bit," said Pixley. "We get a lead and we want to keep it. We teach our kids--finish, finish, finish--and we didn't finish tonight. That's the bottom line."

On the Eagles' next possession, a 45-yard drive stalled at the Cape 35, turning over the ball to the Tigers for the potential go-ahead points, but Williams' pick and TD return ended any Tiger hopes of an upset.

Cape, keyed by a 46-yard pass play from Slattery to George Hamilton, closed the scoring on Slattery's 4-yard TD toss to Derek Walker with 1.9 seconds left.

"I was pleased with our effort in the second half," said Brookins, whose Tigers fell to 0-2, "but I was an unhappy and angry man in the first half. We've got to come out blazing from the get-go.

"At halftime, I challenged our desire. Do you even want to play these guys or just wear the uniform?"

NMCC's Sedrick Hemphill fell on the onsides kick prior to Williams taking a knee on the final snap.

Said Pixley, "We hung on just enough at the end to get a win and I'm proud of our kids for that."

NMCC outgained Cape with 376 yards of total offense to 247. The Eagles were particularly strong on the ground with Gates rushing for 201 yards and Brown 108, including two huge third-and-long conversions to keep drives alive.

"DeAnton Brown answered the call when we needed it," said Pixley. "That's what we've got to do to win. You've got to establish the run and stick with it. Our kids did a great job of that, especially in the first half."

Junior signalcaller Williams connected on 2-of-3 passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Cape's Hammonds rushed for 112 yards on 18 carries with two scores.

NMCC hosts Poplar Bluff on Friday at 7 p.m.