ECCC is 1-0 on the young season. Mississippi Delta fell to 0-1.
East Central returned a first quarter interception for a touchdown and then scored on three straight offensive possessions in the second quarter to put the game away early.
“We now have some ability on the outside that anybody can catch it and take it the distance,” said third-year Warrior Head Coach Ken Karcher after the first opening game win in his East Central tenure. “We haven’t had that in two years. It’s going to be exciting to see how these guys progress, but I was pleased with how they played in the first game.
“This win is very important, and it will help give us momentum heading into the second game of the year. But like I said to our guys, we have to learn how to win, because it hasn’t happened around here.”
The Warriors got the first half scoring started when freshman linebacker Pat Walker, a product of North Forrest High School in Hattiesburg, stepped in front of a Devonte McPherson pass and returned it 14 yards for the touchdown to give East Central a 7-0 lead with 6:59 remaining in the first quarter. Aaron Garrett, a freshman from Meridian, kicked the point after.
East Central would extend the lead to 14-0 on its next offensive possession, when sophomore running back Savon Robinson out of Raymond High School scampered 20 yards for the score. The big play of the 98-yard drive was a 49-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jesse Hosket of French Camp to freshman wide receiver Henri Murphy of Dollarway High School in Pine Bluff, Ark. Garrett kicked the PAT.
The Warriors got on the scoreboard yet again on their next possession, when wide receiver Kabion Ento, also out of Dollarway in Pine Bluff, took a screen pass from Hosket and raced 79-yards for the score. Garrett again was good on the point after. With 9:22 remaining in the first half, East Central led 21-0.
“That was one of my first times doing that (making a long catch and run),” Ento said. “It felt good. I was just hoping nobody was going to catch me.”
Robinson, a 6-0, 190-pound speedster, wasn’t done in the first half as he raced 62 yards to the end zone the next time the Warriors had the ball to give East Central a 27-0 lead. Garrett’s point after was no good.
The score remained 27-0 until 8:09 left in the game when freshman running back Donterrius Poe of Philadelphia High School scored from 12 yards out. The point after was good by Garrett and the Warriors led 34-0.
A stingy Warrior defense forced eight Trojan punts, an interception, and a fumble in their first 11 possessions of the game. East Central held the Trojans to 222 yards offense and sacked Delta quarterbacks five times.
“I think our defensive coaches have done a fine job,” Karcher said. “We’ve upgraded our talent. … We’re going to build this program around defense, and I thought our guys played the way we expect to play.”
Robinson finished with 119 yards rushing on 10 carries, with two touchdowns, while Poe tallied 43 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Hosket was 13 of 18 passing for 188 yards and a touchdown, after sitting out the second half as a precaution because of an ankle injury late in the second quarter. Ento had three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Warriors piled up 438 yards of total offense in the win.
“We feel pretty good where we are right now,” Karcher said. “We still have a long way to go, and we’re not naive to think we’ve arrived in any way, but we have some more talent. We’ve got guys that are bigger, and we’ve got guys that can run. So it’s going to be fun to see how fast we can grow.”
“It’s always good to start off with a win,” echoed Ento. “That does something positive for the team, so hopefully we can build off this win and keep going. Once you get that first win, everyone is feeling good, but you have to build on it and prepare for the next game and be ready for the next opponent.”
The Warriors are at home again Thursday, Sept. 3, when the Coahoma Community College Tigers visit Bailey Stadium in Decatur. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.