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Gulf Coast squares off against NWCC for title again

PERKINSTON — When Mississippi Gulf Coast and Northwest Mississippi met last year in Senatobia, it was a championship game thriller that went down to the wire.

When the teams meet Saturday at A.L. May Memorial Stadium in Perkinston, the MACCC Championship and National Community College Football Championship will be decided in what promises to be another exciting game.

“We’ve got to make some plays late in the game,” Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. “It’s gonna be close. It’ll be decided late in the fourth quarter. Somebody’s going to have to make a play on one side of the ball or the other to tilt it our way. That’s what happened last year. We made a play or two on defense, and Austin Bolton broke a big run. That was really the only difference in the game.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The game is sold out but can be watched at http://mgcccbulldogs.com/stream or listened to on SuperTalk 103.1 FM.

This is the fourth time the teams have met to determine the state champion, and the teams are a dead-even 1-1-1 in those games. In all three previous meetings, the winner went on to earn the national championship, which will be the case in this game, too.

The Bulldogs and Rangers tied 7-7 in 1982, and NWCC was selected to go on to play for the national championship. In 2015, Northwest won 34-24 and earned the national title in the Mississippi Bowl the following month.

Last year, Gulf Coast won 22-19 and earned its fifth national crown in Pittsburg, Kansas, a year to the day before this game.

Northwest’s defense is stout. The Rangers are physical up front and don’t allow big plays. Gulf Coast will have to earn everything it gets.

NWCC quarterback Michael Hiers completes more than 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for 12 touchdowns and just one interception.

“He’s very accurate,” Wright said. “He has a very quick release and doesn’t hang onto the ball long. In their screen game and all their RPOs, he gets the ball out of his hands and makes great decisions. He’s efficient, and that’s the main thing that describes him.”

Gulf Coast defense stresses stopping the run. The Regulators couldn’t have done that much better against Jones in a 35-8 win to clinch the MACCC South. The Bobcats finished with minus-27 yards rushing.

Gulf Coast had six sacks and 11 tackles for loss, and the Bulldogs have allowed an average of 4.7 points in their last three games.

The starting defensive line corps of Jace McCoy (So., North Pike/Summit), Hydee Barlow (So., Scott Central/Forest), Brian Merritt (So., Colquitt County/Moultrie, Ga.) and Jae’Vien Gill (So., Neshoba Central/Philadelphia) got significant playing time as freshmen. Wright says they’ve elevated their play another level.

“They played hard all year,” Wright said. “Our D-line was disruptive against Jones. They have really done a fantastic job all year against the run and pressuring the quarterback. That gives the linebackers and the secondary a lot more freedom. It lets them make more plays. Anytime the offense has to operate with a quicker tempo, it makes it easier on the whole defense.”

NOTEBOOK

  • Gulf Coast will be going for its 17th conference championship, and the first back-to-back titles since 2007-08. The only other time the Bulldogs won consecutive state championships was in 1966-67. This is the first title contested since the league rebranded itself as the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC). Gulf Coast has won 16 MAJC/MACJC in school history: 1927, 1936, 1942, 1948, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1974, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2019.
  • A win would clinch the first back-to-back unbeaten, untied seasons in school history. In 1935 (5-0-1) and 1936 (7-0-1) teams came the closest but each suffered a tie. Gulf Coast has had eight undefeated seasons in school history: 1935, 1936, 1942, 1948, 1971, 1984, 2007 and 2019. (The 1935 team didn’t not win a state championship because the Bulldogs’ Homecoming game against Holmes was canceled because of a fatal car accident involving Perkinston Junior College students the day before. Holmes would finish with a better record and claim the crown.)
  • The MACCC champ has won the NJCAA Championship seven of the last nine years, but this year the NJCAA is planning to play its title game in the spring because. Mississippi opted to play its schedule in the fall, and will not participate in that championship season.