Co-Lin football’s blue-collar DNA on display in huge road win at Gulf Coast
Published 9:43 pm Friday, October 13, 2023
You might have noticed the Co-Lin alums and fans in your life carrying themselves with an extra amount of bounce in their steps on Friday.
Thursday night the Wolves went on the road to face the No. 4 ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs and knocked the home team from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 28-23 win.
It was a classic performance from a Glenn Davis coached team in his 20th year leading the football program in Wesson.
Gulf Coast plays football in Perkinston, which is located in Stone County, but the school has campuses and facilities up and down the coastline of our state with a combined enrollment that tops 16,000 students.
By comparison, Co-Lin has somewhere north of 5,000 students combined enrolled in either Wesson, Natchez or Mendenhall.
As one would expect, the resources afforded to Gulf Coast in the areas of athletics are among the top of the MACCC.
In Wesson, Davis has built a program that competes as one of the best teams in the state on a year in and out basis with his teams always having talent, but more importantly, cohesion and toughness.
He and his coaches pitch it in recruiting as a “blue-collar program.”
That cohesiveness, playing as a band of brothers, was needed by every man on the roster to hold off a Gulf Coast comeback attempt in the late going on Thursday.
And in typical Co-Lin fashion, it was some of the student-athletes that grew up closest to the school that made some of the biggest plays of the night.
The first one was made by sophomore linebacker Collin McGowen. A three-time Daily Leader All-Area selection while playing for the Wesson Cobras, McGowen returned a Gulf Coast fumble 38-yards for a touchdown to put CLCC up 7-0 with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
When Gulf Coast did score on Thursday, they did it in dramatic fashion. The first of those long scoring plays was a 57-yard touchdown run by Trey Hall that tied the game up just over a minute after Co-Lin got on the board.
The Wolves led 14-10 at halftime as the first offensive score of the game for Co-Lin came with 7:15 left until the break. That’s when Crystal Springs High alum Johnnie Daniels ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run.
Daniels was highly sought-after out of Crystal Springs and Co-Lin won a recruiting coup when they inked both he and his high school teammate, defensive back Navarion Benson. Benson finished the game with four tackles and had a fumble return that covered 29 yards.
The most successful Co-Lin teams during the Davis era have been ones that were balanced offensively as being able to generate yards on the ground is a Wolf Pack trademark.
This season, Daniels, and freshman Tray Minor (Natchez High) have been a formidable running back duo who’ve worked behind an offensive line that’s overcome injuries all year.
Co-Lin opened the second half at Gulf Coast with its best drive of the night. The Wolves covered 75 yards in 10 plays and ran 4:54 off the clock.
The possession ended with sophomore tight end Tyler Fortenberry catching his first career touchdown on a 25-yard throw from quarterback DeVon Tott.
Fortenberry was a highly decorated quarterback during this high school career at Brookhaven Academy. Included in those honors was being named Daily Leader All-Area MVP and last season he was Tott’s backup as a freshman.
After the 2022 campaign wrapped up, Fortenberry made the move to tight end and has thrived in that new role. Last week, Fortenberry gave his verbal pledge to continue his career at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The next drive for MGCCC ended with the fumble that Benson recovered, and it only took three plays for Co-Lin to go ahead 28-10 as Tott connected with Jaylen Smith on a 4-yard touchdown pass to put CLCC up 28-10.
The Wolves had a chance to add to that lead as they had an offensive possession that ended the third quarter and started the final frame deep in Bulldog territory.
The Gulf Coast defense buckled though, and Co-Lin ended the series by missing a long field goal attempt.
One play later, Hall hit on one of those aforementioned, explosive plays as he scored on a 70-yard touchdown run that made the score 28-17 with 10:53 left in the game.
Co-Lin and Gulf Coast have had some wild and wacky matchups over the years. Gulf Coast won 31-28 last season at CLCC in a game that was on full tilt.
A refresher, that one featured a touchdown scored by the Bulldogs on a terribly botched call. A Gulf Coast running back crossed the line of scrimmage with the ball and fumbled it, which bounced backwards to his quarterback, who then threw the ball down field to an open receiver for a score.
You can’t do that, FYI.
A year prior, Gulf Coast scored in the closing seconds and converted the PAT kick to beat Co-Lin 14-13, again in Wesson.
There was a sense of dread all through the second half of that one-point loss amongst Co-Lin fans as the game’s results felt as predictable as a movie that gives too much info away in its previews.
Some of that dread crept back into the hearts of the CLCC diehards on Thursday when Gulf Coast cut the lead to 28-23 with a 65-yard interception returned for a touchdown.
At that point, 6:08 remained in the game and Co-Lin faced a hold ’em or fold ’em type of moment.
The feeling of dread began to intensify as the Wolves were held to 3-and-out on their next series as just 50 seconds ran off the clock.
Gulf Coast took its last possession of the game with 4:19 remaining and the ball on the Co-Lin 39-yard line after a short punt and long return.
The Bulldogs got down to the 13-yard line, but facing 1st-and-10 from there, the Co-Lin defense showed they still had some tough left in the tank.
The Wolves stopped a rush for no gain on first down as freshman linebacker Malachi Williams, another local guy from Brookhaven High, didn’t think twice before knifing through a gap to make a huge tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Gulf Coast quarterback Eli Anderson went to the end zone on second down and his throw was just past the hands of receiver Dayan Bilbo on a play where CLCC defensive back Jahron Manning provided great coverage.
Manning, a sophomore from New Orleans, has been playing at an outstanding level of late and again led Co-Lin in tackles on Thursday with 11 total stops.
On third down, Co-Lin linebacker Dedric Hicks (West Jones), hit Anderson in the midsection while he was throwing to his right.
As he lay on the field being attended to by trainers, Anderson had his helmet off and his arms spread out as it appeared that the wind had been knocked out of him by Hicks.
After being looked at, he tried to return to the field, but was forced to the sideline by the officials. Gulf Coast then called a timeout and Anderson wanted to go in again, but he was once again ushered back by the refs.
On fourth down, backup quarterback Kason Linke came in without warming up and threw his first pass of the night, a ball that skipped on the turf behind it’s intended receiver.
With that, Co-Lin was content to kneel out the clock and head for the bus in a literal sense.
Last season there were some post-game antics between the schools in the handshake line, Davis and his staff decided to send their team to the locker room rather than have the chance of that happening again.
It was a memorable win in Perkinston, a place where Co-Lin won 41-37 in the 2012 MACCC state championship game in a similarly exciting type of game.
Now Co-Lin finishes the regular season with straight games, two at home, against schools that badly want to spoil a potential playoff spot for the Wolves.
On Thursday, they’ll host Pearl River (0-6) and the next week will be homecoming in Wesson with a matchup on Oct. 26 against an East Central (3-3) team that knocked off an unbeaten Northeast Mississippi team on Thursday.
The regular season ends on Nov. 2 at Hinds (3-3) for the Wolves. Gulf Coast and CLCC are now both 2-1 in the MACCC South Division with Jones (5-1, 4-0) leading the division. Jones and Gulf Coast (5-1, 2-1) close the regular season on Nov. 2 in Ellisville.
Lots of football left, but the Wolves always savor a win against Gulf Coast, because the Bulldogs are usually favored when the teams meet.
And being victorious as an underdog is one of life’s great joys, a feeling the Co-Lin football program has in its DNA.
Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at email@example.com