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ECCC plugs leak, earns playoff

By Staff
WRAPPED UP ECCC's Marco Cole tackles Pearl River's Ike Chekwa after a 2 yard reception. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Nov. 2, 2001
DECATUR It's one thing for the ship to spring a leak or two. You may get a little wet, but if you take care of your business, you don't have to let it go to the bottom either.
The East Central Community College Warriors saw their season threatening to go under after back-to-back South Division losses to Jones and Southwest Mississippi.
But the Warriors patched things up in time to take a 26-16 division win over Pearl River Thursday night to clinch their fifth state playoff appearance in school history.
ECCC, 6-3, will go to Moorhead a week from Saturday to play Mississippi Delta in the first round of the MACJC playoffs. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. The teams met in the season opener with Delta scoring late for a 14-7 victory.
If playing Pearl River, which entered Thursday's game with a 7-1 record wasn't bad enough, the Warriors knew they would have to do it without starting quarterback Brian Zbydniewski, who suffered a separated shoulder in last week's 38-9 loss at Southwest. Obviously, ball control was high on ECCC head coach Terry Underwood's priority list.
With Zbydniewski out, Jarvis Lymon and Kevin Stephens took turns running the Warrior offense. ECCC finished with 325 total yards with 264 coming on 57 rushes.
Patrick Prince had 112 yards on 29 carries to lead the Warriors. Lymon had 72 yards on 13 carries and Ramon Williams added 62 yards on six rushes.
While ECCC took the old-school run em ragged' approach to the game, Pearl River took on the new-age look as Charlie Reeve, a transfer from Abilene Christian University, threw the ball 53 times, completing 32 tosses for 244 yards. The Wildcats had 351 total yards.
The Warriors moved 46 yards on the game's opening possession and took a 3-0 lead on a 45-yard field goal by Danny Haynes with 10:34 left in the first quarter.
ECCC's Melvin Cotton picked off a Reeve pass and returned it 38 yards to the 4. Following a penalty, Lymon scored on a 7-yard run. A two-point try failed as the Warriors led 9-0 with 7:33 to go in the opening period.
The Warrior defense held Pearl River to just three yards in the first 15 minutes.
Reeve began firing at will in the second quarter as he completed 17-of-24 passes to six different receivers for 147 yards as Pearl River took a 10-9 lead into halftime.
Reeve teamed with Aaron Dunklin on a 15-yard score to cap a 13-play, 69-yard drive in which Reeve was 9-of-10 for 59 yards.
Matt Hoda's 23-yard field goal with 15.9 seconds left in the second quarter capped a seven-play, 61-yard drive entirely though the air.
ECCC took advantage of a 25-yard punt by Aaron Ready to go up 12-10 on a 23-yard field goal by Haynes with 3:19 left in the third period. The drive's big play was a 20-yard run by wide receiver Dontay Spillman, who left a pair of Wildcat defenders with nothing but air.
Reeve hooked up with Ike Chekwa on a 20-yard touchdown toss with 1:29 left in the third period as Pearl River went back up 16-12 as the extra point failed.
The Warriors reclaimed the lead for good on the first play of the fourth quarter as Lymon cut up the middle on an option keeper and motored 54 to the end zone. Haynes' extra point gave ECCC a 19-16 lead.
Buck Thames, who was victimized by Jones on the Bobcats' final touchdown two weeks ago, made a diving interception of a Reeve pass at the 50 to set up ECCC's final score. On fourth-and-2 at the 9, Stephens faked up the middle to Prince, who had carried the ball the three previous plays, and hit a wide-open Spillman for an insurance touchdown with 9:24 remaining. Haynes' PAT made it 26-16.
Pearl River threatened following a 48-yard run by Perry Tisdale to the ECCC 27, but the Warriors stuffed a fourth-and-1 play at their 18 to preserve the win and clinch the playoff berth.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com or phone him at 6593-1551, ext. 3235.

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