Booneville, Miss. - Kendrick Doss certainly did not display the rust of a quarterback that had not played a down of football in over 16 months during his inaugural outing at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Doss had over 250 yards passing to guide Northeast to a halftime lead against nationally ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. But the Bulldogs eventually claimed a 40-23 win in the season opener for both squads on Thursday, August 27 at Tiger Stadium.
The Florence, Ala., native was 16 of 29 for 262 yards to be exact. He had two touchdowns through the air and another on the ground in his collegiate debut after redshirting at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) out of high school one year ago.
"Just to finally get back out there among the mixes is wonderful," said Doss. "God has been good to me. I just took what the defense gave me. I played within myself and found open guys."
Mississippi Gulf Coast, which appears at No. 9 in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, grabbed an early lead on its first possession with a 23-yard field goal by Joshua Rowland.
Northeast responded with a crisp nine-play drive that lasted only two minutes and 37 seconds of clock time. Tiberias Lampkin set the tone with an 18-yard sprint that pushed the Tigers into enemy territory.
Doss put a punctuation on the possession with a one-yard sneak. He setup the score with a strike to Joe Horn, Jr., that went for 44 yards and created a goal-to-go situation for Northeast.
The Tigers got the ball back quickly after Shaquille Bush pounced upon a fumble by the Bulldogs. It is the 12th consecutive matchup dating to a contest at Itawamba Community College during the 2013 campaign in which Northeast has forced at least one turnover.
It took Doss one play to convert Mississippi Gulf Coast's miscue into points. He found Horn, Jr., who streaked down the middle of the field for a 36-yard touchdown that lifted the Tigers ahead 14-3 late in the first quarter.
"(Doss) played exceptionally well," Northeast head coach Greg Davis said. "I think that he's a good football player. He's going to be a big focus obviously going forward."
The Bulldogs (1-0) cut their deficit to 14-13 midway through the second following a nine-yard scoring pass from A.J. Erdely to Ishmel Morrow and a short field goal by Rowland.
But the Tigers extended their advantage to 16-13 at the break when a bad snap over the head of punter Tyler Flathau sailed out of the end zone for a safety. Jacob Meeks originally pinned Mississippi Gulf Coast deep in its own end with a 50-yard punt and then a tackle for loss by Ladarius Townsend caused the punting scenario.
The Bulldogs exited the locker room and scored on each of their four drives in the third. Rowland's 38-yard make brought the game into a stalemate at 16-16 just over four minutes into the period.
Morrow's second touchdown reception of the evening gave Mississippi Gulf Coast its first lead since the 2:37 mark of the opening quarter. Chris Robinson added a short scamper into the end zone and Rowland connected on his fourth field goal in five tries to increase the Bulldogs' advantage to 33-16.
Northeast needed just 54 seconds to put their lone points on the scoreboard in the second half. L.J. Hawkins caught his initial touchdown as a Tiger on a 21-yard bullet from Doss to come back within two possessions of Mississippi Gulf Coast's lead.
Robinson accounted for the winning margin for the Bulldogs with 9:37 remaining in the matchup on his two-yard dash. Northeast (0-1) could not respond on its final pair of drives.
"The one thing I loved that I saw was great attitudes and effort," said Davis. "There was a lot of positive energy. I'm proud of each and everyone of them because they played well tonight."
The Tigers outgained their guests by a slight edge of 358-352 offensively. Lampkin compiled a team-best 17 rushes for 74 yards to guide Northeast's backs that toted the pigskin.
Horn, Jr., picked up where he left off after a stellar freshman campaign. The reigning Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State selection notched a career-high 119 yards on only three catches.
Demarcus Rogers had a brilliant performance in his first contest with the Tigers. He paced the defense with a game-best 10 takedowns and also recorded one tackle for loss.
"I just did what the coaches told me and played hard," Rogers said. "I was right there in position to make the tackles. I read my keys and ran 100-percent to the ball carrier."
Morrow had nine receptions and totaled 207 yards for Mississippi Gulf Coast. Northeast held the Bulldogs to only 62 rushing yards, which was their lowest amount in the last four years.
The Tigers continue the non-division portion of their schedule on Thursday, September 3 when they travel to Hinds Community College. Kickoff between Northeast and the Eagles (1-0) is set for 6:30 p.m. in Raymond.