PERKINSTON, Miss. (MGCCC Athletics) - No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast faces a tough task when it tries to win its 16th MACJC championship Saturday at Senatobia.
Read what Bulldogs coach Jack Wright had to say about No. 4 Northwest.
“Northwest is a very well-rounded, physical team,” he said. “They run the ball and stop the run. They have a bunch of great athletes and an efficient quarterback. In some ways, it’s like looking in a mirror. It should be a great game.”
Kickoff at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia is set for 2 p.m. The game will be streamed at https://livestream.com/MGCCCBulldogs/events/8882452.
Gulf Coast (10-0) is 5-1-1 in postseason games against Northwest (8-2), having won the five semifinal meetings. The Rangers beat the Bulldogs to win the 2015 championship in Senatobia, and the teams tied for the state championship in 1982.
With a win, Gulf Coast will assure itself a spot in the NJCAA championship game on Dec. 5 in Pittsburg, Kansas. The Bulldogs and Lackawanna (9-0), which plays Georgia Military this weekend, are the only teams in the country without two losses.
“Everybody knows the magnitude of the game from coaches to players to managers,” Wright said. “Talking about it is a waste of time. Everybody knows we have to play really well to beat these guys. The focus has been good so far with our preparation. We just hope that continues the next two days.”
The Rangers are led by redshirt-freshman quarterback Jack Walker, who transferred from Georgia State. He’s completing almost exactly 70 percent of passes, averaging 208.9 yards per game. Walker has thrown 18 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Braden Smith, a Mississippi State transfer, has caught 43 passes for 670 yards and eight touchdowns.
Linebacker Quintin Wilfaun, a sophomore from Oxford, leads Northwest with 59 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Sophomore defensive back Christian Cain leads the team with four interceptions, including one in the end zone late in the 24-17 win over Jones in the semifinal which clinched the victory.
Wright said his team reviewed the video from its 31-7 win over East Mississippi, ironing out issues even after a pretty dominant win.
“There’s little mistakes at every position on both sides of the ball that you always go back and try to fix and improve on,” he said. “Our team has done a pretty good job of that the last two years trying to get better every game. You’d rather fix those mistakes after a victory than after a loss.”
The Bulldogs have gotten great play from Maleik Gray (So., LaVergne/La Vergne, Tenn.) after moving him from wide receiver. He arrived just before the start of the season from Tennessee and worked hard to learn the offense. He averaged 15.2 yards per reception and caught a pair of touchdown passes, including a highlight that made ESPN.
Before the final regular-season game, though, he transitioned to the other side of the ball.
“As coaches, we were really concerned about that because he hadn’t been put out there,” Wright said. “We weren’t sure whether he’d make mistakes, be out of position because of inexperience, but he went out there and made some fantastic plays that helped us win the game, including a massive interception in the end zone in the first quarter that shut a drive down. It’s a tribute to his athleticism and his football savvy to be able to go out there and play multiple positions and do it really well.”
WHO: No. 1 MGCCC (10-0) vs. No. 4 Northwest (8-2)
WHAT: MACJC Final
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Bobby Franklin Field, Senatobia
Series record: Gulf Coast leads 24-19-2
First Meeting: 1929
Last Meeting: Nov. 7, 2015, NWCC 34, MGCCC 24