PERKINSTON — No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast cruised to a convincing 55-24 Homecoming win over Southwest, equally big news Saturday happened out in Kansas.
No. 1 Hutchinson was upset 29-27 by No. 20 Highland, meaning the Bulldogs are likely to move to the top of the NJCAA rankings Monday for the first time since 2013.
"As measured as I want to be in my response, I'm really excited by it," Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. "Year 2 of our program, this is a measuring stick. Of course, that's not our goal. Our goal isn't to be ranked No. 1 after six weeks. We still have a lot of football to play. We still have very good opponents left, but I'm tickled to death. Nobody remembers you, though, unless you're No. 1 at the end."
The Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 MACJC South) piled up 533 yards of total offense, led by Chance Lovertich (So., Jackson Prep/Brandon). He completed 24-of-32 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns. Two of those went to Marquise Bridges (So., Petal/Brookhaven), who caught six passes for 134 yards.
The Gulf Coast defense held Southwest to less than 100 yards rushing and passing and got two turnovers. The Bears (0-6, 0-4) picked up 130 of those yards on two plays, a 57-yard pass and a 63-yard run.
The Regulators, the Bulldogs' defense, had seven sacks among 16 tackles for loss in 53 Bears snaps.
"All year long, it's been extremely difficult to sustain drives against that group," Wright said. "They got some yards on us on some big plays. That's the threat when you play a team like Southwest who plays the triple-option."
Gulf Coast led 14-0 early after a pair of Lovertich-to-Bridges scores, but Southwest scored the next 10 points added by a Bulldogs turnover.
Gulf Coast would explode for 28 points in 7 minutes, 20 seconds to ice the game.
Austin Bolton (So., Poplarville/Poplarville) scored his seventh touchdown of the year from 3 yards out with 2:54 left in the half. After the Bulldogs blocked a punt, Lovertich hit Jymetre Hester (Fr., Glades Central/Belle Glade Fla.) for an 8-yard score with 24 seconds left in the half.
Shaun Anderson (So., Picayune/Picayune) scored on the first drive of the second half, and Gulf Coast turned a short field following a fumble recovery into a Travis Isaac (Fr., Vanguard/Ocala Fla.) 1-yard fade route to make it 42-10.
"Looking back at the first five games, we made a decision as a staff with the players' input that we're a much better offense when we keep the foot on the gas pedal," Wright said. "We want to go fast and stay aggressive."
Lovertich's fifth touchdown throw was caught by Lamar Morgan (Fr., Newton/Decatur) on his first collegiate reception. Jaxon Orr (Fr., Itawamba/Fulton) completed his first collegiate touchdown to Perry Keyes (So., Taylorsville/Taylorsville) for the final score.
"We played really well in a lot of facets," Wright said. "It didn't go according to plan at first, but the players and the coaching staff adjusted. I'm proud of that."
Gulf Coast plays at East Central (4-2, 3-0) with first place in the South Division on the line. It's a short week following homecoming, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m.
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