DECATUR — No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast held No. 19 East Central without a touchdown and to under 200 total yards, posting a 25-5 win at Bailey Stadium.
"The defense rose up," Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. "They were in bad field position. Offensively, a couple of times we put them in a bad spot and they came through. They didn't' give up a touchdown. Considering where they were on the field, that's very impressive."
The Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 MACJC South) took sole possession of first place in the division by beating the Warriors (4-3, 3-1). Gulf Coast ground out 260 yards rushing, including 157 from Austin Bolton (So., Poplarville/Poplarville). Chance Lovertich (So., Jackson Prep/Brandon) threw three touchdown passes, including two to Jymetre Hester (Fr., Glades Central/Belle Glade, Fla.).
Lovertich's first to Hester came on a 30-yard connection in the first quarter, and Bolton made it 12-0 with a 2-yard run in the second.
East Central forced an intentional grounding in the end zone to get on the scoreboard, then made it 12-5 just before halftime by converting a short field from an interception.
Jalen Bracey (Fr., Murrah/Jackson) scored on an 18-yard pass midway through the third quarter to make it 18-5, and Hester scored his second touchdown on a 13-yard freeze play to ice it with 8:11 to play.
"We were inconsistent, but we got chunk runs," Wright said. "Especially in the open field, that flipped field position. Those were really huge. You have to give credit to our offensive line because East Central came in here determined to crowd the box and make things extremely difficult to us."
The Bulldogs ran 50 times for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Bolton averaged nearly 7.5 a pop.
"You saw tonight how hard the running backs ran. A lot of times, they had to make a guy miss to gain three or four more yards. The O-line and the running backs played really well in tough conditions."
The Regulators, the Bulldogs' defense, held East Central to eight first downs. The Warriors managed 77 rushing yards and 85 passing yards, and Myron Stewart (Fr., Port Gibson/Port Gibson) and Jackie Matthews (So., Pinson Valley/Pinson Ala.) grabbed interceptions.
Gulf Coast continues South Division play next week when archrival Pearl River visits Perkinston. Kickoff at A.L. May Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
"After tonight, there's a little bit of breathing room," Wright said. "We need to finish strong the last two games. Being 4-0, looking at the landscape of the South, that does us give a really good chance of being in (the playoffs)."
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.