Summit, Miss. – The Northeast Mississippi Community College football team had a night for the record books as it wrapped up a three-game road stretch in grand fashion.
The Tigers tied a 35-year-old record for most points scored in a single game during its 55-30 victory over Southwest Mississippi Community College on Thursday, September 22 at John I. Hurst Stadium.
The record was originally set in 1981 when Northeast, which was then under the direction of future National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Hall of Famer W.B. "Bill" Ward, defeated Coahoma Community College by a 55-18 margin.
It is only the fourth time ever for the Tigers to eclipse the 50-point mark. The most recent instance before this was 29 seasons ago in 1987 during a 52-0 blanking by Northeast of Coahoma.
"All the credit goes to the kids," said Tigers head coach Greg Davis. "We battled back and forth. They knew they could come out and compete. They played extremely hard and did all the work. We're a family and we're really excited about this team."
Northeast (3-1) broke open a tight contest in the second half by limiting the Bears to only 119 yards of offense and seven points. Southwest actually held a 23-20 advantage at the break.
The Tigers erased their deficit with a 13-play, 84-yard drive out of the locker room. Bailey Walker put Northeast ahead for good with a four-yard touchdown run that made the score 27-23.
Peyton McMahon gave the Tigers some breathing room just seconds later. He stripped the pigskin from a Bear running back on the initial play of their ensuing possession and raced 35 yards untouched across the goal line.
It was the first defensive score for Northeast since current Delta State University linebacker Jamel Dennis returned a fumble 96 yards against Pearl River Community College on October 16, 2014. McMahon's touchdown put the Tigers up 34-23 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
"I saw (the ball) slipping a couple of times when we were hitting them so I just took my chance and got it," McMahon said. "That was a great feeling. Coming to the sideline with everybody excited and jumping on you was great."
Southwest (1-3) closed its gap to 34-30 on a 34-yard screen pass from Casey Haygoood to Mikel Anderson. But Northeast accounted for 21 unanswered points in the final period to pull away from the Bears.
Zeke Liggins blocked a punt late in the third to place the Tigers in prime real estate at the Southwest 26-yard line. Northeast took advantage of the great field position when Toreano Miner made a beautiful catch in the back corner of the end zone that pushed the lead to 41-30.
Brandon Tillman set the stage for the next score with a 50-yard interception return. Mason Cunningham's second rushing touchdown of the contest extended the Tigers' edge to 48-30 following Austin Holloway's true point after attempt.
Kyoshi Agnew capped Northeast's stellar offensive output with his inaugural touchdown at the collegiate level on a two-yard handoff. It was his first score since the 2013 campaign when he was a senior at Corinth High School.
"I really want to thank God because this was big," said Agnew. "It's just now hit me. I didn't know how to feel at that point, but now it feels good. I've cried tears of joy. I'm just proud of my team."
The Bears actually took the first lead of the matchup on Ruben Maldonado's 34-yard field goal. But the Tigers responded with one of their longest scoring drives of the night encompassing 10 plays and over three minutes of clock.
Dorian Banks punched the ball in from six yards out for his first touchdown in a black-and-gold uniform. His short scamper gave Northeast a 7-3 advantage just over 10 minutes into the opening quarter.
Cunningham and Walker exchanged quarterback keepers for scores over the next two possessions to increase the Tigers' lead to 20-9. However, a pair of turnovers just before halftime allowed Southwest to overtake Northeast temporarily.
The Tigers compiled a season-high 442 yards with 231 of those coming on the ground. Kenzie Phillips paced that effort with a career-best 87 yards while Banks tallied a team-high 15 carries for 56 yards.
Cunningham was solid once again behind center for Northeast. He accounted for 219 total yards, which includes his second 200-yard passing performance this year, with three touchdowns.
"We stuck to our strengths and it worked out," Cunningham said. "The main thing is you can't score if you don't have the ball so I try to keep it in our hands as much as I can. I think this was really the first night that we did what we know we can do."
Miner had his best special teams performance to date with 115 yards in five kickoff returns. Brenden Williams guided Northeast defensively with 13 tackles and a blocked extra point.
Demarcus Rogers registered eight stops and a forced fumble while McMahon concluded his outstanding contest with eight takedowns, 1.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
The Tigers went undefeated during the regular season against Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) South Division opponents for just the third time ever. The only other Northeast squads to accomplish this feat were the 1969 and 2005 editions.
It is the best start to a campaign for the Tigers since 2011. Northeast won five straight that year and eventually qualified for the state playoffs as the MACJC North Division runner-up.
Northeast welcomes Coahoma (0-4) for its annual homecoming matchup on Thursday, September 29. Kickoff between the MACJC North Division foes is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.