PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast's explosive offense put up a passel of points, and the Bulldog defense made them stand up on the last play of a 42-41 season-opening win over Itawamba at A.L. May Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Torrance Gibson (So, American Heritage/Plantation, Fla.) ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and backfield mate Deandre Torrey (Fr, Gautier/Gautier) scored four times while piling up 189 yards. The defense faced seven plays inside their own 4-yard line in the final 40 seconds, stopping a two-point conversion attempt with no time on the clock to clinch the victory.
"It's a team win," Gulf Coast coach Chad Huff said. "That's all I can say, it was a total team win. I'm proud of the way our guys never gave up."
After being held scoreless the first 15 minutes and being down 7-0, the Bulldogs exploded for 35 second-quarter points. Torrey scored from 4, 18 and 15 yards, with Gibson scampering in from 19 and 15 yards.
"There were going a lot of man, so when I saw a seam I took it," Gibson said. "The coaches always stress if I see the corners back to me, just take off and run."
The Bulldogs expanded a 35-21 halftime lead by marching 78 yards on five plays to open the third quarter. Torrey struck again from 46 yards.
"The receivers made some plays, and the quarterback scrambling out of the pocket opened things up for me," he said.
Itawamba began clawing back into the game with a pair of touchdown passes from Dan Ellington to Terry Williams, and they marched 83 yards in the final 14 plays over 2 minutes, 18 seconds to score as the final horn went off. The final six plays of the drive all took place inside the Bulldogs' 4, aided by a penalty.
Ellington scored from 1-yard out, and ICC coach Sean Cannon did not hesitate to go for two. The quarterback was flushed out of the pocket to his right, and his pass into the end zone was batted away by Aretavious Hendrix (So, Starkville/Starkville) to seal the victory.
"It was exciting, but we had confidence in the guys because they worked really hard," Gulf Coast defensive coordinator Steve Davis said. "We had faith in them and were expecting them to step up and make plays, and they did."
Darius Townsend (Fr, Laurel/Laurel) had a pair of fumble recoveries. One set up the Bulldogs' one-play, 4-yard opening scoring drive. The other squelched an ICC drive inside the Gulf Coast 10-yard line. Saivion Smith (So., IMG Academy/St. Petersburg, Fla.) blocked a first-quarter field goal attempt.
"We created two big turnovers, blocked a field goal there early," Huff said. "Our backs were against the wall a lot of times tonight, and they responded."
Gulf Coast hits the road next week, headed to Scooba to play No. 2 East Mississippi. The teams met in last year's MACJC semifinals, with the Bulldogs dropping a tight 27-24 loss.
"We've got to get better and be as good as possible next Thursday against a talented East Mississippi team. We're looking forward to getting there. We start the next step tomorrow."
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