On the legs of JD Martin, the toe of Robens Beauplan, and the back of a tenacious defense, the East Central Warriors ended 10 years of football frustration with a 23-18 win over the No. 15 ranked Copiah-Lincoln Wolves Thursday, Oct. 3, at H.L. Sloan Stadium in Wesson.
East Central had lost 10 straight football games to Co-Lin. The last time the Warriors were victorious over the Wolves was 35-28 in overtime back in 2008.
Martin, a freshman running back out of Wetumpka, Ala., rushed for 216 yards on 23 carries including runs of 13, 53, 25, 48, 17, and 17 yards. Beauplan, a freshman kicking specialist from Riverdale High School in Lehigh Acre, Fla., was true on three of his four field goal attempts from 30, 20, and 27 yards.
The Warrior defense capitalized on five sacks for a combined loss of 34 yards and an interception to hold Co-Lin to just 300 yards of offense, including 130 through the air. The Wolves entered the contest passing for 231 a game.
With the win, East Central is now 4-2 overall on the season and a perfect 3-0 in the MACJC South Division. The Warrior win sets up a big South Division showdown next Thursday, Oct. 10, when No. 2 Gulf Coast visits Decatur. Kickoff from Bailey Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m. The 2019 Warrior sophomores will be honored prior to the game.
Co-Lin falls to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the division.
East Central opened the scoring with a 30-yard field goal by Beauplan in the first quarter. The seven-play drive began when sophomore linebacker Anthony Blakely (Greene County) blocked a Co-Lin field goal attempt.
Co-Lin took a 6-3 lead with a touchdown and missed point after late in the first quarter. Beauplan tied the game 6-6 with his second field goal, this one from 20 yards early in the second quarter. The Wolves regained the lead just before the half with a 12-play, 46-yard drive. The try for two failed and Co-Lin led 12-6.
The Warriors weren't finished in the first half, somehow managing to get 10 plays off in the final 2:17 of the second quarter to get in field goal range at the Co-Lin six yard line. The big play of the drive was a Holman Edwards pass to Jaylen Zachery that covered 36 yards. Beauplan's kick from 27 yards was good and the Co-Lin lead was 12-9 at the intermission.
East Central regained the lead for good on its first possession of the second half. Facing a punting situation on a fourth and four from its own 44, the ball was snapped to upback Elijah Keyes (Mize) and the linebacker turned running back gained 15 yards and a Warrior first down. On the very next play, Edwards hit Zachery with a 41-yard touchdown strike and East Central led 16-12.
The Warriors extended that lead to 23-12 early in the fourth quarter with a three-play, 72-yard drive capped by a two-yard run by sophomore running back Marq Qualls (Lake). Martin's 48-yard scamper was the key to the drive.
It was the field goal that Beauplan didn't make that almost cost the Warriors the upset win. East Central was on the verge of putting the game away with the ball at the Co-Lin three and just 1:41 on the game clock. But Beauplan's 20-yard attempt was blocked and Co-Lin's Tyrus Wheat raced 78 yards with the loose ball for the touchdown to pull the Wolves to within five points at 23-18. The try for two was no good. The Warriors, however, recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran the clock out.
Offensively, East Central amassed 451 yards of total offense, including 280 on the ground. Freshman quarterback Edwards (French Camp) was 12 of 21 through the air for 171 yards and the one score. Sophomore wide receiver Zachery (Dayton, Ohio) caught three of those passes for 81 yards and the one touchdown.
In addition to his three field goals, Beauplan punted four times for a 42-yard average, with two of those punts downed inside the Co-Lin 20 yard line.
Freshman linebacker Trenton Ladner (Hancock) led the East Central defense with nine total tackles, one and a half sacks, and two and a half tackles for the loss. He also had a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Freshman defensive end John Cartwright (Madison-Ridgeland Academy), sophomore linebacker Ronnie Thomas (Clinton), and sophomore linebacker Payton Rogers (Forest) all had sacks, while freshman nose guard Joshua Ratcliff (Belle Rose, La., Assumption) assisted on a sack.
At one point early in the fourth quarter and a 16-12 lead, East Central sacked Co-Lin quarterback Danny Clark on three successive plays to end the Wolves' attempt to take the lead. Co-Lin started with a first and goal at the Warrior six and gave the ball up on downs at the East Central 22.
Sophomore corner Fred McGee (Greene County) picked up his second interception of the year, this one at the Warrior four yard line to end a first half Co-Lin scoring threat.
All East Central home and away football games can be heard on WKOZ "Cruisin" 98.3 radio or at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media. Live stream video of all home games as well as links to the live stream of road opponents can be found at www.eccc.edu/eccc-media.
Freshman running back JD Martin gains some of his 216 yards rushing against the Co-Lin defense. (EC Photo)