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South Division champ escapes Co-Lin with 7-3 win

WESSON – Opportunity knocked loudly Thursday night but theCo-Lin Wolves were unable to answer on offense against Jones CountyJunior College’s stingy defense. Five Co-Lin turnovers helped theJones County Bobcats escape Stone Stadium with a narrow 7-3 victoryin the regular season finale.

Jones (8-1, 6-0), the South Division champion and ranked No. 11in the NJCAA poll, advances to the state playoffs and hostsNorthwest, the North Division runner-up, next Saturday at Laurel.Kickoff is 2 p.m.

East Central beat Pearl River 26-16 last night at Decatur tosecure the runner-up position in the South and plays next Saturdayat Mississippi Delta, the North Division champion.

Holmes defeated Northeast 35-21 last night, knocking the Tigersout of the playoff picture.

Co-Lin (5-4, 2-4) was unable to capitalize on scoringopportunities last night as a full moon illuminated the sky. TheWolves had to settle for a fourth-quarter, 22-yard field goal byJimbo Thornton after realizing a first down at the Bobcats’ 2-yardline. After tailback Darius Bingham had cracked through the middleof the Jones defense on a 17-yard, fourth-down run to the 2, threeplays lost 3 yards, forcing the field goal with 7:30 left in thegame.

“Our inability to score and capitalize on opportunities made ittough to win,” said Co-Lin head coach Dave Cross. “We had threecritical fourth down conversions and we didn’t succeed. It’s hardto put a handle on what happened. We just didn’t get it done.”

Co-Lin’s final chance at scoring the go-ahead touchdown arrivedlate in the fourth quarter. On fourth down at the Jones 36-yardline, Co-Lin quarterback Willie Johnson was forced to scramble andtackled 2 yards shy of the necessary yardage.

The Bobcats took over with 1:35 left to play and ran out theclock.

“Our defense played long and hard,” said Cross. “Our offensejust couldn’t get it done.”

The Bobcats limited Co-Lin to just 90 yards rushing. Johnson wasable to pass for 148 yards but he was intercepted 4 times.

In the second quarter, Johnson was sacked for a 6-yard loss andfumbled at Co-Lin’s 19. Linebacker Josh Tate returned the fumble tothe 14 and the Bobcats scored 4 plays later on a 1-yard leap byrunning back Ralph Davis.

Davis entered the game with 1,057 yards rushing. He was limitedto 55 yards on 21 carries by Co-Lin’s defense. The Bobcats, lackingmotivation after clinching the South title last week, finished with129 yards total offense.

“Our defense played great,” said Jones County head coach ParkerDykes. “We stopped (Co-Lin) four times on fourth down.

“We didn’t want to give up the big plays,” Dykes continued. “Wewere hoping the defense would make some big plays for us. It washard to get our kids up to play after winning the championship lastweek.”

Dykes said his starting tight end, sophomore John Hill, suffereda knee injury midway through the fourth quarter and will undergosurgery on Monday.

To their credit, the Bobcats avoided serious turnovers onoffense. Freshman quarterback Charles Hales was intercepted once byCo-Lin cornerback Aaron Pitts late in the first half.

Co-Lin sophomore linebacker Ken Bournes said the Wolves playedwell enough to win on defense. “We shouldn’t have let them get thatfirst touchdown. Our defense played well.”

Jones County’s outstanding kicker, Nickolas Terracina, missed 3field goals last night from 35, 29 and 47 yards.