Turnover too much for Co-Lin to overcome in 54-15 loss
WESSON – A disastrous first half that saw No. 10 Copiah-Lincoln turn the ball over four times was all the No. 2 East Mississippi Lions needed to claim a 54-15 win in the MACJC State Championship on Saturday night in Wesson.
The four turnovers led to 21 points and helped the Lions stake a 33-3 halftime lead. Lion quarterback Chad Kelly found a wide open Todd Mays on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 9:31 remaining in the first quarter to put the Lions up 7-0. Mays would add a 1-yard rushing TD a little over two minutes later after the Lions got the ball back on an interception by Demetrius Cain. The Lions would snag another interception on the following Co-Lin drive when Allen Sentimore picked off Daniel Fitzwater on a tipped pass. The Lions scored after the interception on a 30-yard touchdown pass when Kelly found a wide-open Desmond Goss from 30-yard out. East Mississippi led 21-0 after the first quarter.
Things went from bad to worse in the second quarter for Co-Lin as Fitzwater fumbled a ball that was picked up by Lorenzo Phillips and returned 31-yards for the score. Fitzwater appeared to be attempting to spike the ball for an incomplete pass, but the ball slipped out of his hands and bounced right into the welcoming arms of Phillips.
Fitzwater finished 23-for-45 with three interceptions and one touchdown. The sophomore was sacked three times and faced pressure all night from a talented Lion defensive line.
Co-Lin (8-3) got on the board with 5:48 remaining in the first half on a 40-yard Greg Nickles field goal. East Mississippi (11-0) got their final score of the first half with 56 seconds remaining when Preston Baker bowled across the goal line from the 1-yard line.
Fitzwater found Courtney Foy on a 13-yard touchdown pass at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter, the PAT was no good, and East Mississippi led 33-9. Fitzwater has now thrown a touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games.
Kelly threw his final touchdown pass of the night with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter when he found Isaac Johnson all alone in the end zone. The Lions added two more touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, both by backup quarterback Wyatt Roberts. The first score went for 15-yards to Johnson and the second was a fantastic 47-yard catch by Camion Patrick.
Co-Lin got their final score of the game with 7:23 remaining when Lakeric Lee found the end zone on a 3-yard TD run. Co-Lin struggled to rush the ball all day and had negative eight yards rushing at halftime. The Wolfpack would finish with 67 yards rushing, 30 of those coming on Fitzwater scrambles.
East Mississippi now moves on to a national championship match up with Iowa Western, either in the Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi or the Graphic Edge Bowl in Cedar Falls, Iowa.