No. 7 Co-Lin defeats Itawamba 26-14 in season opener

Published 10:30 pm Saturday, August 29, 2015

Itawamba Sports / Lee Adams / Co-Lin quarterback Garrett Kruzcek (12) completes the pass as offensive lineman Jeremy Blackwell (59) of Bogue Chitto gives protection.

Itawamba Sports / Lee Adams / Co-Lin quarterback Garrett Kruzcek (12) completes the pass as offensive lineman Jeremy Blackwell (59) of Bogue Chitto gives protection.

FULTON — The No. 7 Co-Lin Wolfpack made the long trip to Fulton and came away with a 26-14 win over the Itawamba Indians in the 2015 season opener. The Wolfpack relied on the strong leg of kicker Greg Nickles and a stout defense to pick up the win.

“This was just one of those games that you have to look at and feel good about the positives you did and be crucial of all the negatives,” said Co-Lin Head Coach Glenn Davis. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen on this team who got their first taste of college football, so we expect some issues during the first game, I just don’t like how many we did have.”

Co-Lin took an early 7-0 lead as quarterback Garrett Kruzcek hit wide receiver Julius Craft (Mendenhall) a 55-yard touchdown pass at the 10:47 mark in the first quarter. Kruzcek, a red-shirt freshman from Winter Park, Florida, was very efficient in his first collegiate start completing 26-of-44 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown.

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The Wolfpack increased their lead to 10-0 as Nickles hit on a 36-yard field goal with 6:19 left in the second quarter.

But the Indians answered with two quick touchdowns before halftime. Sophomore quarterback Kwadra Griggs connected with Dominic Walker on an 11-yard touchdown. Zach Ellis’s PAT pulled within three with a little more than three minutes left in the half.

The Indians took advantage of a short punt deep in their own territory. Griggs hit Dorian Gaston from 23 yard out. Ellis added the extra point to give the Indians a 14-10 lead with a little over a minute left in the half.

The Wolfpack tried the old “hook and lateral” as Kruzcek hit Craft. Craft then threw a lateral to wide receiver Alexander Hollis (Yazoo City) but sophomore defensive back Kendarius Hibbler made a touchdown-saving tackle on the three-yard line as time expired to preserve the Indians 14-10 lead.

The Co-Lin running game got going in the second half. The Wolfpack drove the ball down the field, but the drive stalled, and they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Nickles. They pulled to 14-13 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.

Two more drives in the fourth quarter produced field goals by Nickles. A 22-yarder gave Co-Lin a 16-14 lead and a 33-yarder increased the lead to 19-14.

A late interception deep in Itawamba territory by linebacker Zach Williams (Lena) put the Wolfpack in excellent field position. A couple of penalties pushed Co-Lin back past the 35-yard line, but Lekedric Lee (McComb) busted through the line on a crucial third-down play. It gave the Wolfpack a first down at the Indian 1-yard line. Kruzcek would ice the game plunging over the goal line with 40 seconds left in the game.

Lee led the Wolfpack rushers with 129 yards on 20 carries. Ladarius Galloway (Indianola) had 48 yards on seven carries.

Nickles, a sophomore from Pelahatchie, hit 4-of-4 field goals (22, 33, 33, 36).

Leading the receivers was Craft with seven catches for 93 yards and one touchdown. Dayall Harris (Ridgeland) pulled down four passes for 50 yards.

“I’m really proud of our defensive performance, they kept our offensive alive all night, and I’m just glad we were able to respond and pay those guys back with a victory for their efforts.”

The Co-Lin defense was stood tall as they held the Indian offense to just 206 yards in total offense. Williams led the defense with nine tackles, a pass interception and one tackle for loss. Freshman Michael Graham (Southaven) had nine tackles and three tackles for loss. Sophomore Adrian Scott (Tunica) had eight stops and one pass break-up.

“During the season you are going to have games in which you have your back against the wall, and your guys have to show you what they are made of,” Davis said. “The past few seasons that game for us has happened in the middle of the year so hopefully our guys will keep showing the guts they’ve got throughout the rest of the season.”

The Wolfpack will host the two-time defending national champion East Mississippi in a rematch of last year’s state championship game on True Blue Thursday at 7 p.m. in Stone Stadium.