Booneville, Miss. - A trio of freshman continue to rise into a prominent role on the defensive side of the pigskin for Northeast Mississippi Community College.
The combo of Takari Brooks, Demarcus Rogers and Brandon Tillman totaled 14 tackles and made several outstanding plays. But their efforts were not enough for Northeast in a 56-7 loss to East Mississippi Community College on Thursday, September 17 at Tiger Stadium.
Brooks, who is a graduate of Southeast Lauderdale High School, recorded a career-best seven stops. He tied Brady Smith for the team-high in takedowns against the nationally ranked Lions.
"I'm just trying to get better and better every time I get out on the field," said Brooks. "We've got a talented group of guys and I learn something from them everyday. You've got to study the game and pay attention."
Rogers closely followed Brooks with six tackles and one pass break up. The Tupelo native finished in a stalemate with Shaquille Bush and Smith for the most solo stops on the unit with five.
Grenada's Tillman accounted for the second turnover of the campaign for Northeast. He recovered a fumble that was forced by Rogers on a first-and-goal attempt to thwart a scoring opportunity for East Mississippi.
The Tigers capitalized on the miscue with a beautiful 17-play, 95-yard possession that took six minutes and 52 seconds off the clock. Kendrick Doss got Northeast away from its own end zone and out of danger for a safety with two straight keepers that moved the chains.
Northeast cut its deficit in half when Doss, who is a transfer from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), used a quarterback sneak to cross the goal line. Austin Holloway's point after try was good to bring the Tigers within 14-7 with 9:43 remaining before the intermission.
"The biggest thing on that drive is we made plays and executed our offense," Northeast head coach Greg Davis said. "These young men can do that and we've seen it time and time again."
It was the team-high third rushing touchdown of the season for Doss. The Florence, Ala., product was also 10 of 25 through the air for 117 yards to pace Northeast (0-4, 0-2).
"We found our rhythm on that drive and that was big for us," said Doss. "My o-line was blocking and my receivers were catching. We were clicking on all cylinders."
Armstrong and Hawkins were the top targets for Doss with four grabs apiece. Bruce's Armstrong accumulated 13.5 yards per reception, which was a season-high for the sophomore who now has over 50 catches during his phenomenal two-year career.
"I'm really getting back in the groove of things," Armstrong said. "The coaches are always talking about somebody being that guy that makes plays. I'm just going to continue doing so next week and the rest of the season."
The Lions, who appear at No. 7 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, extended their lead to 21-7 at the break following a 55-yard sprint by DJ Law.
East Mississippi added 28 points in the third quarter to push ahead of the Tigers. The Lions added two scores in just one minute on a 28-yard pass from Wyatt Roberts to Dario Robinson and an interception return by C.J. Reavis.
A short touchdown snag by Damion Willis and a four-yard scamper into the end zone from Jacquez Horsley concluded the period and lifted East Mississippi (3-1, 2-0) to a 49-7 advantage.
The Lions accounted for their final margin of victory with a 55-yard scoring connection from John Franklin, III, to Mario Lanier in the fourth. Desmond Goss gave East Mississippi its initial lead early in the matchup with a touchdown catch.
"Overall, I'm pleased the effort," Davis said. "The kids believe in what we're doing and they're competing. We just have to minimize some crucial mistakes and we'll be OK."
Northeast returns to action on Thursday, September 24 with a trip to Coahoma Community College. Kickoff for the crucial Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North Division contest is slated for 7 p.m. at James E. Miller Stadium.