WESSON — No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast dominated early and cruised late to defeat No. 11 Copiah-Lincoln 38-20 on Thursday at H.L. Stone Stadium.
The Bulldogs beat a second-straight top-15 opponent in the NJCAA poll. They stayed undefeated after their fifth game, more importantly improving to 2-0 in the rugged MACJC South.
Jackie Matthews (So., Pinson Valley/Pinson Ala.) had two first-half interceptions, including a pick-six that sparked Gulf Coast to a 24-0 lead.
"It's big because of all the hard work we've put in," he said. "It's really paying off right now."
Northwest was ranked third in front of Gulf Coast but lost 47-41 to Holmes on Thursday. No. 1 Hutchinson plays No. 2 Butler on Saturday, potentially opening up space to move up when the rankings come out Monday. This will be the first week computer rankings, which count 25 percent of the total, are added to the poll of 16 voters.
Matthews' first interception came five minutes later, setting the Bulldogs up for a five-play, 28-yard drive finished off by a 1-yard score by Shaun Anderson (So., Picayune/Picayune).
After Caden Davis (Fr., Pearl/Pearl) made it 17-0 with a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter, Matthews returned his second pick 57 yards for a 24-point lead.
"The D-line got pressure and it really set me up," he said.
Co-Lin (3-2, 1-1) narrowed the margin with a pick-six of its own with 3:32 to play.
Gulf Coast's offense expanded the lead back to 24 on its first drive of the second half, going 68 yards in 12 plays. All but 17 of those yards came on the ground, punctuated by a 1-yard struggle by Austin Bolton (So., Poplarville/Poplarville).
The Wolves got a pair of touchdowns before the end of the third quarter, but a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ate up a third of the final 15 minutes iced the game. Omni Wells (So., Moss Point/Moss Point) scored from 4 yards out.
"The offensive keeps pushing forward," he said. "We watch a ton of film, and that preparation really helps us."
Lovertich completed 14-of-23 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Bridges finished with three catches for 66 yards and the score.
Deondre House (Fr., Senatobia/Senatobia) ran 15 times for an impressive 97 yards. Wells, Bolton and Anderson scored touchdowns as the Bulldogs ran for 202 yards.
The Regulators, Gulf Coast's stingy defense, gave up just 260 total yards, recovering a fumble in addition to the two interceptions. The Bulldogs racked up four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
"Those guys up front, they're strong, they're powerful, and they get to the ball," Wells said. "They made stops, they made big plays, they got turnovers, and we just tried to put points on the board."
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