(Chris Pobst, Staff)
And just like the Tigers, the visiting Mules made NMCC pay for giving up the big play.
"It was kind of a rash of the same thing -- the big play," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "We had them third-and-long a few times and we gave them the first. That's the youth and inexperience and not understanding the nuances of the game until you get in there and learn those experiences."
The Eagles were scorched by the big play, exclusively from Mules running back Pete Bryant, on Friday night as Poplar Bluff got their first win of the season by defeating NMCC 34-12 at New Madrid County Central High School.
The Eagles had their troubles wrapping up the speedy and shifty Bryant throughout the night as he racked up 265 yards on 13 carries.
"They're going to bounce around like that when you don't tackle," Pixley said about Bryant. "We didn't wrap up very well. But, he did a good job of getting behind his pads. We didn't do a very good job of wrapping him up."
With runs of 32, 57, 60 and 77, three of which went for scores, Bryant continually put daggers into the Eagles. The Poplar Bluff back capitalized on two late turnovers by NMCC on the very next plays from scrimmage following the home team's mistakes.
His last two runs of the contest went for 60 and 77-yard scores.
"Anytime you get a turnover you want to try and put a quick score on them," Poplar Bluff head coach Shane Kearbey said. "Our guys kind of rang the bell. In that part of the game where you can kind of put the hammer on them and kind of finish it, our guys stepped up and got it done."
Although ending the contest with a 22-point difference, NMCC found better luck moving the ball offensively in week two after being held stagnant against Cape Central a week ago.
The Eagles combined for 378 yards as their offensive powerhouse, G'Darius Stevenson, worked for every bit for his 240 yards on the ground as well as connecting through the air 11 times for 105 yards as the NMCC quarterback.
"We definitely did," Pixley said about the improved performance of his offense. "(Poplar Bluff's) defense is not that bad. I think we played a lot better offensively."
The first of Stevenson's scores, which gave NMCC their first lead of the season in the first quarter, was on a hard-fought 21-yard scamper which needed a lengthy stretch to break the plane at the end of the run.
His second score came in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were down 21-6, during a 12-yard run.
The Eagles had a prime opportunity to possibly tie the game in the early going of the third quarter after a fumble recovery by Lemonte Nelson had NMCC starting a drive on Poplar Bluff's 46-yard line.
Driving down to the Mules' 5-yard line in a fourth-and-five situation, Stevenson was stopped one-yard short for the turnover on downs. Although the Eagles would eventually get the ball back in another favorable field position to score, their first of two fumbles led to a 68-yard pass to Dustin Hibler in Poplar Bluff's next series to give the Mules a 21-6 lead.
"It's the youth in us," Pixley said. "It was a lot of things that we done against ourselves. It's feast or famine with us. We're moving the ball effectively at times and then we make a mistake."
After Stevenson helped make it a 9-point game on his second score, a turnover on downs and a fumble by the Eagles in their next two possessions were quickly capitalized on by Poplar Bluff and the above mentioned Bryant to seal the win for the Mules despite committing 14 penalties for 109 yards.
"We'll get it right," Pixley said. "We're just real green right now and we've got some young guys in there getting some high-quality reps. These are guys that we trust and we know and believe can stick it up. They're just having to learn at a very high rate of speed right now, which is going to benefit us in those last three ball games."
N -- G'Darius Stevenson 21 run (run failed), 3:16
P -- Pete Bryant 57 run (Nate Legrand kick), 0:45
P -- Bryant 10 pass from Josh Freeman (Legrand kick), 9:41
P -- Dustin Hibler 68 pass from Freeman (Legrand kick), 0:39
N -- Stevenson 12 run (run failed), 11:31
P -- Bryant 60 run (kick failed), 5:35
P -- Bryant 77 run (Legrand kick), 3:03
Poplar Bluff -- Josh Freeman 10-37, Pete Bryant 13-265, Denzell Blackmon 1-8, Demarcus Patterson 1-(-3), Team 3-(-3). NMCC -- G'Darius Stevenson 29-240, Jamareia Jones 16-47, Lamonte Nelson 3-24, Arlandre Newson 2-3, Damien Glispie 1-5, Chad Moton 1-(-2), Team 3-(-44).
Poplar Bluff -- Josh Freeman 4-10-0 81. NMCC -- G'Darius Stevenson 11-20-0 105.
Poplar Bluff -- Hunter White 1-2, Pete Bryant 1-10, Eric Ramos 1-1, Dustin Hibler 1-68. NMCC -- Lamonte Nelson 7-62, Xavier McFerren 1-18, Gabe Smith 1-7, Damien Glispie 1-13, Jimmy Caldwell 1-5.