ELLISVILLE — They say defense wins championships.
And East Mississippi’s did just that when needed.
The top-ranked Lions defense would force six turnovers and a spark from quarterback TyQuan Ulmer on offense to get past fourth-ranked Jones 19-14 to claim a third straight MACJC state championship at Sim Cooley Field on Saturday afternoon in a showdown of Top 10 teams.
It is East Mississippi’s seventh state title overall and earns the Lions a berth in the NJCAA National Championship game on Thursday, Nov. 29 in Pittsburgh, Kansas.
The Lions are the first team since Pearl River from 2003-2006 to win three straight MACJC state titles.
“Two good football teams going at it and that was a great game,” said East Mississippi coach Buddy Stephens. “All to glory to God. Our kids needed strength and it was one of those games we couldn’t find a rhythm offensively and defensively our guys came to play.”
The only offense that came early for the Lions was the Laurel connection of quarterback TyQuan Ulmer and wide receiver Dontarrio Drummond.
The two would connect on two touchdown passes. The first came from 28 yard out with 7:52 left in the second quarter to give EMCC a 7-0 lead.
The second came on a 73-yard touchdown pass with 3:31 left in the third quarter but a missed extra point saw Jones leading 14-13.
The spark for East Mississippi came when Jones quarterback Stetson Bennett fumbled on a quarterback keeper and Joseph Anderson recovered at the Lion 11-yard line with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Three plays later the Lions would take the lead at 19-14 on a 71-yard touchdown run by Deon McIntosh with 8:27 left in the game.
“Me and TyQuan have been playing together since seventh grade. If he sees a matchup with me that he likes he’s going to throw the ball up,” Drummond said. “To win this five minutes from home just feels great.”
Drummond would have six catches for 132 yards with those two touchdowns to lead East Mississippi offensively.
Ulmer would go 2-of-5 passing for 101 yards with two touchdowns for the Lions (11-0).
Safety Jacob Anderson would have two interceptions on back to back to drives to late in the fourth quarter to seal the win for EMCC.
“These kids got a lot of fight and believe in one another. Ulmer did a great job of coming in and giving us the spark we needed,” Stephens said. “The fumble changed the momentum for us.”
Stetson Bennett led the way for Jones going 17-of-31 passing for 215 yards with a touchdown and a rushing touchdown.
His 49-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Douglas gave the Bobcats (9-2) a 14-7 lead with 4:14 left in the fourth quarter.