PERKINSTON, MS (WDAM) _ The Jones College Bobcats were not a happy bunch walking off their own football field on Nov. 10, having dropped a bitterly-contested, 19-14 decision to East Mississippi Community College in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges’ championship football game.
The Bobcats felt a lot better Sunday afternoon following the 11th annual Mississippi Bowl at A.L. May Memorial Stadium on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Perkinston campus.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Marquez Bembry led a defensive charge that contained one of the nation’s top junior college ground games and as No. 5 JC capped the 2018 season with a 27-7 victory over Eastern Arizona College.
“It feels great,” JC football coach Steve Buckley said of the Bobcats’ first bowl win since 1998. “We didn’t like the way the last game before this ended, and just to get to 10 wins is a great accomplishment for these kids.
“They’ve worked their tails off and done everything we asked of them. They trusted the process since day one, and it’s good to see them reap the benefits right now.”y.
Freshman defensive back John David Rutherford recovered two botched punts that led to 10 points for the Bobcats as Jones (10-2) methodically pulled away from the seventh-ranked Gila Monsters (9-3).
Freshman place-kicker Cristofer Thompson was named Jones’ Offensive Player of the Game after kicking field goals of 28 yards and 46 yards along with three extra points.
“I was surprised to hear my name,” Thompson said, smiling. “Kickers don’t usually get something like this.
“But we all had a positive mindset. We knew it was going to be a fun game, and an important game, too, but mostly fun. We all had a good time out here.”
Except for Eastern Arizona’s ballcarriers.
“Operating out of the triple-option formation on offense, the Gila Monsters ranked second nationally, averaging 268.6 rushing per game.
Sunday, Eastern Arizona managed just 101 yards, period, failing to complete a pass to a Gila Monster in five attempts.
Of those yards, 68 yards came on one burst. Forty-nine other snaps produced a net 33 yards.
“It was a lot of fun getting these guys in from Eastern Arizona,” Bembry, who was named Jones’ Defensive Player of the Game after six tackles, with 4 ½ for loss with a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
“Getting different competition rather than Mississippi competition, so that was good mixing it up.”.
Jones, who was playing in the Mississippi Bowl for the first time, became the fifth junior college team from the state to appear in the postseason game. Mississippi teams have won 10 of the 11 games.
Sunday, Rutherford started the ball rolling when he recovered a fumbled punt snap at the Gila Monsters’ 24-yard line. The Bobcats were forced to settle for Thompson’s 28-yard field goal, but held a 3-0 lead.
That lead did not last long. Sophomore running back Keyshawn Lowe took a pitch, skirted left end and ran 68 yards to put Eastern Arizona up 7-3.
The Bobcats threatened again, and appeared to have pulled within a point on another Thompson field goal.
But Eastern Arizona was called for a personal foul, and sophomore running back Kalyn Grandberry (35 yards on 17 carries) scored on a 3-yard run to put Jones back in front.
Thompson’s 46-yard field goal left the Bobcats ahead 13-7 at halftime.
“I had a really good day,” Thompson said. “I want to thank my line, my holder, everybody, because it’s a team effort. Execution is all it is.”
In the third quarter, freshman Nataurean Watts of Petal broke in and blocked a punt that bounded into Rutherford’s hands. He did the rest, scrambling 12 yards for a touchdown and a 20-7 Jones lead.
The Bobcats clinched the game with a 51-yard drive in the fourth quarter.
Bembry recovered a fumble caused by freshman linebacker Daylen Gill at the Jones 49, and freshman quarterback Fred Barnum threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to freshman Natorian Watts of Petal to polish off the drive.
Lowe, who had 100 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, was named Eastern Arizona’s Offensive Player of the Game. Sophomore linebacker Trae’Von Hinton made seven tackles for the Gila Monsters, including four tackles for loss, and was named Eastern Arizona’s Defensive Player of the Game.
Jones sophomore defensive tackle Chei Hill was honored with the Mississippi Bowl’s “Mississippi Player of the Year,” an honor given to a player from the Mississippi playing in the game.
Hill, who leads the nation in tackles for loss (39) and was tied for fourth nationally with 15 sacks, had six tackles Sunday, including three tackles for loss with a sack.
Buckley said 2018 had its challenges as well as its rewards.
“With 41 freshmen, it’s been an experience, I can tell you that,” Buckley said. “I don’t want 41 freshmen again, but we’ve matured a lot.
“It’s like we’ve said from the beginning, we want to build a program here that helps kids, and I think if you look at it, graduation, four-year schools, power five schools, I think we’ve done it all and it’s all about these kids.”