PERKINSTON, Miss. (MGCCC BULLDOGS) - Mississippi Gulf Coast ran its winning streak to 18 games Thursday in the gutsiest of gut checks, beating Hinds 31-24 in an overtime thriller.
“It was one of the toughest games we’ve played in,” Bulldogs linebacker Mike Smith said. “We knew the game was going to come down to the wire, and we knew as a team we had to pull it out.”
Smith (So., Ridgeland/Flora) had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:57 left in regulation that looked like the game-winner, but Hinds was able to tie it up 24-24 with 13 seconds left on a 2-yard run that capped an eight-play drive.
Gulf Coast ran the ball all six plays of the opening possession of the extra period, and rode their big dog five of them. Deondre House (So., Senatobia/Senatobia) converted a key third-and-3 with a 4-yard run, and three plays later was in the end zone on a 3-yard power dive.
The Regulators forced a fourth-and-3 on the first set downs of the Eagles' possession, and Jashon Baker (So., Tylertown/Tylertown) ended the game with a leaping interception into the end zone.
“When it counted, Mike came up with a big pick-6,” Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. “He does that in practice, so I was not surprised. It was very timely tonight. At the very end, the interception by Jashon to end the game. It was just big-time plays.”
House led all rushers with 146 yards rushing, and his OT touchdown gave him a hat trick of scores. Gulf Coast outgained Hinds 351-323 thanks to 277 yards on the ground, including 58 by DeCarlos Nicholson (Fr., Petal/Petal) and 41 by Cam Thomas (Fr., Picayune/Picayune).
The Bulldogs had to rally from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit, and Jace McCoy helped turn the tide. His fumble recovery helped set up a 25-yard field goal by Caden Davis (So., Pearl/Pearl), and then he blocked a punt and recovered it. That set up House’s 1-yard plunge 13 seconds before intermission for a 14-10 deficit.
Hinds pushed the lead back to 17-10 before House broke a fourth-and-1 play into a 41-yard touchdown with 13:44 left to tie the game.
“All I know is I was facing the opposite side, and when I turned around Deondre was gone,” offensive lineman Hayden Shook said. “I was just cheering for him. That was a helluva run, but that’s what got us out the gutter.”
Smith picked off BeSean McCray for the 41-yard return that gave Gulf Coast its first lead.
“I saw the receiver cross my face, and I was getting ready to pick him up, but the ball came through his hands,” he said. “It came right to me. I knew I had to make a play to get the victory. I’m so thankful for my teammates.”
Gulf Coast had 12 more penalties this week for 110 yards, including picking up a flag for pass interference in the end zone in the final seconds of regulation that gave Hinds new life on fourth down.
“It was a gut check, and I just could not be prouder of the fight to the very end,” Wright said. “That’s' the one thing that stands out right now. We never quit, we never laid down, and there were plenty of opportunities to do so. We never did, and that’s a very good feeling.”
The Bulldogs (2-0) are tied for the lead in the MACCC South with Copiah-Lincoln. Jones (1-0) is a half-game back.
Gulf Coast plays Homecoming next week when Copiah-Lincoln visits A.L. May Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Tickets go on sale to the public on Monday at http://mgcccbulldogs.com/tickets.