Wolves muscle past Northeast Tigers

Published 10:53 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

WESSON – Last season Van Lee served as a change of pace running back for the Copiah-Lincoln football team. He rushed for 422 yards his freshman season while serving as a backup. On Thursday, Lee showed that he is ready for an increased workload as a sophomore after rushing for two touchdowns in Co-Lin’s 29-20 victory over the Northeast Mississippi Community College Tigers.

Lee, a sophomore from Mendenhall, finished the game with 166 yards rushing on 25 carries. Lee felt like he needed to set the tone for his team.

“I knew that I needed to have a big night and it’s a great feeling to start the season off with a win,” said Lee.

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The Co-Lin (1-0) offense began the game running like a well-oiled machine on their first possession of the season. Freshman quarterback Daniel Fitzwater was 5-5 on the opening drive of the game including an eight yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Koy McFarland. Blayne Jones added the extra point to give the Wolfpack a 7-0 lead.

The Co-Lin defense would force a fumble on the first offensive play from scrimmage for Northeast. Tigers (0-1) quarterback Jerrard Randall was sacked by Co-Lin defensive end Carroll Phillips and the ball was stripped and recovered by the Wolfpack defense.

Co-Lin would score on a 30-yard field goal by Jones after the turnover and the Co-Lin lead grew to 10-0.

Randall, a transfer from LSU, would use his feet to move his team down the field on the next Tiger drive. A 69-yard scamper by the mobile quarterback set up the first Northeast score of the night when Randall hit Raymond Gee with a two yard touchdown pass. Chris Cooper was good on the PAT and Co-Lin’s lead was trimmed to 10-7.

The second quarter saw Randall score another TD pass, this one from 18 yards to Ricky Parks and it appeared that Northeast had controlled momentum of the game. However, a misplayed hold on the point after attempt gave the Wolfpack a jolt of life and fired up the Co-Lin sideline. The botched PAT was scooped up by Co-Lin’s Chris Richmond and returned for a safety. Northeast had taken their first lead of the night at 13-12.

The very next drive for Co-Lin would be a scoring one as Jones made his second field goal of the night, this one from 39 yards, and Co-Lin would regain the lead 15-13.

With under five minutes to go until halftime the Co-Lin offense would put together one of their best drives of the night. The drive featured a 4th down conversion and culminated with Lee punching in his first touchdown run of the night from one yard out. With 3:36 left on the clock before halftime Co-Lin now led 22-13.

After a scoreless third quarter Northeast would turn up the pressure on Co-Lin. Randall would run for his second touchdown of the night and after a successful point after, Northeast had cut the Co-Lin lead to 22-20 with 11:16 left in the game.

The Wolfpack had a period of offensive deficiency in the third quarter that left their defense on the field for long stretches of the second half. That’s something Co-Lin’s head coach Glenn Davis knows his team must improve.

“Daniel threw two turnovers in the second half and those are mistakes he’ll learn from,” said Davis. “We knew we needed a good drive after they cut it to two and I’m proud of how our kids responded.”

The final scoring drive of the night for Co-Lin would prove to be what they needed to ice the victory. Facing a third down and long from midfield, Fitzwater found sophomore receiver Casey Gladney for a 15-yard reception that moved the chains and kept the drive alive. The drive was capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Lee and his second TD of the night, paired with a successful PAT by Jones, gave the Wolves a 29-20 lead with 7:53 left in the game.

The Wolfpack defense held the Northeast offense to claim the 29-20 victory.

Co-Lin finished with 311 yards total offense. Fitzwater was 19-33 for 179 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Freshman Courtney Foy led the receiving corps with 5 catches for 57 yards.

For Northeast, Randall finished 6-20 passing for 40 yards and 2 touchdowns. Randall also rushed 13 times for 90 yards and 1 touchdown.

Sophomore Kalen Jackson tallied one interception for the Co-Lin defense.

The win in front of a large home crowd was good, but it’s also a game that both Davis and Lee know they can improve on.

“Our first two drives were easy scores and our team needs to understand you can’t take your foot off the gas,” said Davis.

“I can’t wait to play again because I know we can play better, but this was a good way to start,” said Lee.

Co-Lin, ranked No. 9 in the latest NJCAA poll, return to action when they travel to Senatobia on Thursday, Sept. 5 to take on Northwest Mississippi Community College. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.