NWCC Rangers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What’s Chris Strong doing since he left Ole Miss this spring? He is throwing around guards and tackles for the Northwest Rangers. A capacity crowd saw Strong, along with head coach Ricky Woods, take on the Gulf Coast Bulldogs Thursday night. But it was not a pleasant evening for the Rangers as the Bulldogs won 39-14. The Panolian photo by Myra Bean

NWCC falls to Gulf Coast as Woods makes college debut

By Brad Greer

Former South Panola head coach Ricky Woods’ return to the Mississippi coaching ranks got off to a rather inauspicious start as his Northwest Community College Rangers opened the 2008 football season Thursday night at home against No. 3 nationally-ranked Gulf Coast.

Aided by a blocked punt and a pair of first -half  touchdown passes from quarterback Greg Jenkins, the defending co-national champions jumped out to a 22-7 halftime lead in route to 39-14 victory over the Rangers.

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After both teams exchanged punts on their initial possessions, Gulf Coast struck first by marching 49 yards on three plays, capped by a 14-yard quarterback option scoring run by Jenkins, with 9:01 left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs special teams set up their next score less than two minutes later as Lyn Armstrong blocked and recovered a Jim Dalrymple of Batesville punt on the Northwest eight-yard line.

After an offensive holding penalty on Gulf Coast moved the ball back 10 yards, Jenkins hit tight end Kevin Helms on a 18-yard scoring strike. Everything went right for the visitors as on the extra point attempt, holder Josh Nelson bobbled the snap from center, but picked up the pigskin and tossed it to J.P. Phelps for the two-point conversion for a 15-0 lead.

The Northwest defense momentarily thwarted a Bulldog drive when  former South Panola product Bud Barksdade picked off a Jenkins pass at midfield. But as they did six times in the first half, the Ranger offense stalled and was forced to punt on the next series.

Gulf Coast surged ahead 22-0 with 2:44 remaining in the first half as Jenkins connected with Brett Moncrief on a 49-yard touchdown reception.

   Northwest finally showed signs of life as Tijuan Green returned the ensuing kickoff  52 yards to the Bulldog 45. Green then hauled in a 36-yard pass from quarterback Casy Weston down to set up 1st-and goal at the Bulldog nine. After an off sides penalty, Green capped the drive scoring on a four-yard run with 1:42 left before intermission. Jeremiah Revord then added the PAT.

Gulf Coast came out in the second half and took control of the game by adding a pair of touchdowns to go ahead 36-7. A Dameon Jackson interception of a Weston pass  set up the first score as Vic Ballard raced 44 yards for a touchdown.

Another blocked punt put the Bulldogs in business on the Ranger seven. Two plays later, Jenkins found Brandon Johnson in the endzone for the final touchdown with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter.

While the Gulf Coast offense was rolling, Northwest was sputtering as they were forced to punt on four straight possessions in the second half. The Rangers only other points came with 4:30 left in the contest as Weston hit Travis Sanford of Batesville for a 20 -yard touchdown strike on 4th-and-10 play. Sanford caught a pair of passes for 25 yards on the night.

Northwest won the statistical battle by outgaining the Bulldogs 295- 291 on the night. The Rangers rushed the ball 25 times for 73 yards and 222 yards through the air while Gulf Coast had a balanced attack of 150 rushing yards and 141 passing yards. The Rangers accounted for 15 first downs on the night while Gulf Coast moved the chains nine times.

Northwest will go for its first win  of the season as they travel to Raymond Thursday to face Hinds  for a 6:30 kickoff.