Northeast, ICC set to renew rivalry

With Northeast and Itawamba being only 50 miles apart, the geographic rivalry is already in place between the two Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC) schools.
 
Add in local players that had to choose between the two schools and the legacy of the two schools and the pressure for the rivalry rises even more.
 
This year, both schools enter their annual showdown with just one loss in the North Division and the winner will be in the driver’s seat for the runner-up spot in the North Division and a playoff berth in the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC) State playoffs during the first weekend in November.
 
Northeast comes into Thursday, October 20’s contest with a 6-1 overall mark and sports a 4-1 record in the North Division. Northeast’s only blemish is to division front-runner and third-ranked East Mississippi while Itawamba enters the game with a 3-1 mark losing to East Mississippi during the fourth week of the season. However, the Indians did drop their first three games of the season, all to non-division opponents as Hinds (44-24), Pearl River (34-8) and EastCentral (24-17) all took decisions against Itawamba.
 
Northeast will be facing a team that comes in on a three-game winning streak after falling to East Mississippi, Itawamba has reeled off three straight North Division wins against Mississippi Delta (30-0), Coahoma (30-27) and Holmes (42-27).
 
Northeast and Itawamba’s rivalry runs deep as the Indians are only one of two schools that Northeast has faced every year during its 52-year football history dating back to 1949. Northwest Mississippi is the other school. The last five meetings between the two schools has shown how fierce the rivalry is – since 2006, the final score between the Tigers and Indians has been decided by seven points or less each time.
 
Itawamba took a close game in Fulton during the 2010 season 20-17 while Northeast captured Itawamba’s last trip to Booneville 28-21 in 2009.
 
In a tight game, Northeast will rely on one of its staples of the season – its defense. Northeast’s defense is ranked third against the rush behind Gulf Coast and East Central after a good showing against Coahoma last week where the Tigers held the host to negative-16 yards rushing in the 29-13 victory.
 
Northeast will look to do the same when the Tigers face Itawamba’s DeShawn and Keon McGaughy. Keon McGaughy is averging 81.6 yards per game while DeShawn McGaughy is right behind his cousin with 55.7 yards per game. During last week’s win against Holmes, both McGaughys eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau.
 
WhileNortheast’s defense is ranked third against the run, the Tiger secondary has been able to shut down the opponent’s passing game to the tune of 15 interceptions on the year. Tiger sophomore Frankie Lee (Charleston) leads the Tiger secondary with six interceptions on the year.
 
Lee’s six picks places him in a second in the MACJC but also in a tie for sixth nationally with Minnesota State Community & Technical College's Eric Riley and Eastern Arizona College's Mohammed Seisay.
 
In addition to its 15 interceptions on the year, Northeast has also come away with ninefumble recoveries and has a plus-10 advantage in the turnover margin.
 
Currently, Northeast’s defense is tied for fourth overall in the Mississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges (MACJC)/National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XXIII with Copiah-Lincoln and only allowing 294 yards per game.
 
In addition to stopping the McGaughy cousins, Northeast will have to stop Canden Dallas of Pontotoc who has come on strong as of late to lead the Indians. Dallas is 42-for-101 through the air for 588 yards and is break-even on interceptions and touchdowns with five apiece. While Dallas is averaging 84 yards through theair, Itawamba as a team is averaging 132.9 yards per game through the air.
 
Darren Daniel, a quarterback from Phenix City, Ala., leads the Indians in scoring with five touchdowns in seven games and is averaging 4.29 points per game.
 
In six games, Itawamba’s offense has put up 150 points while Northeast’s defense still leads the North Division with the fewest points allowed with 142 in its seven outings on the season.
 
Northeast will counter with a pair of scorers of its own. Tres’ Houston (Atlanta) is the second leading scorer on the team with six touchdown receptions in seven games and has hauled in six of the Tigers 16 passing scores on the year.
 
Jamarcus Goodloe (Leighton, Ala.) has three of Northeast’s five rushing scores and is averaging just over 26 yards per game after missing the season opener. Michael Poole (Ripley) leads the Tiger rushing attack with an even 50 yards per game.
 
One of the keys to victory will be the play of special teams. Punter Jonathan Harrison (Belmont) is averaging over 40 yards per punt while Itawamba’s Will Goodwin leads the league with over 2,000 yards of punting during his attempts on the year and has a long of 59. Harrison’s long on the season is a 52-yard boot.
 
Northeast place kicker Taylor Earhart (Olive Branch) remains entrenched in the top echelon of kickers in the league. Earhart is currently third in the MACJC and Region XXIII behind a pair of kickers for high-scoring offenses in East Mississippi’s Tyler Walker and Mississippi Gulf Coast’s Taylor Pontius.
 
Earhart, who was a Star of the Week for JucoWeekly.org last week when he converted a 42 and 40-yard field goal and three extra points, has converted on 23-of-25 extra points and 8-of-11 field goals on the season.
 
Northeast also has an offensive weapon at the kick returner spot. Tiger sophomore Deion Belue is third in the league in kick off returns and out of Belue’s 13 kickoff returns, the Northeast defensive back has racked up 415 yards – 31.9 yards per return – and is the only kick returner in the state to have a pair of returns for a score.
 
Not only does Belue handle kickoff duties but the sophomore also has returned seven punts for the Tigers on the year for 142 yards and had a long return of 53 yards against Mississippi Delta during week four action.  However, most teams have been avoiding kicking to the shutdown cornerback since Belue has had so much success this season.
 
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Booneville and Northeast’s Student Activities has asked all Northeast fans to wear black in order to “Black Out” the Indians.
 
Fans can listen to all the action beginning at 6:50 p.m. by logging onto http://www.teamline.cc/teampage?teamcode=1452, then clicking on football.
 
Fans can also listen to the live play-by-play from any telephone for $5 per game. Toaccess games via any telephone, dial 1-216-502-3200. Enter teamcode 1452 when prompted. Long distance charges may apply depending on long distance plan or provider.

About Chris Elkins

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