RAYMOND - The top-10 showdown between top-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and eighth-ranked Hinds Community College lived up to its billing in Raymond Thursday, as the two junior college football heavyweights hammered it out until the finish, with the Bulldogs of Gulf Coast coming away with a narrow 41-34 victory.
The slugfest, which was featured as the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Game of the Week and was the South division opener for each team, was a back-and-forth tilt all night with both teams featuring tremendous rushing attacks.
Hinds fell to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the South division, while Gulf Coast improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the South.
Gulf Coast finished with 480 total yards (335 rushing, 145 passing) on 73 plays, with Hinds finishing with 426 total yards of offense (233 rushing, 193 passing) on 65 plays.
The Eagles drew first blood on the game's opening possession when Joseph Houston (Pelahatchie) kicked a 34-yard field goal to give Hinds a 3-0 lead with 11:16 in the first quarter.
Gulf Coast would immediately respond with a score of their own, as quarterback Terrian Page rushed in from 13 yards out and a Tristan Reynolds PAT was good to give the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
Running back Antwon Wells would then score the first of his three touchdowns on the night for the Bulldogs when he scored from one-yard out with 1:00 left in the opening quarter. Reynolds' point after attempt would put Gulf Coast ahead, 14-3.
James Summers (Greensboro, N.C.), a freshman quarterback, would immediately respond for the Eagles when he rumbled in from five yards out and the score to cut the Gulf Coast margin to 14-10 after Houston's point after was good.
Summers then put the Eagles ahead on the ensuing possession after he connected on an 83-yard heave to Keithon Redding (Atlanta, Ga.) and gave Hinds a 17-14 lead with 4:53 to go in the first half.
Reynolds would tie things up going into the break when his 39-yard bomb split the uprights to knot the contest up at 17 with just 12 seconds remaining.
Gulf Coast emerged from the locker room after halftime on a mission, immediately scoring on consecutive possessions after rushing touchdowns from Page (11 yards) and Wells (25 yards) to go up 31-17 with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter.
Darryan Ragsdale (Brandon) capped off a seven-play, 75 yard scoring drive on the next Eagles possession when he scored from three yards out. The Houston point after was good and cut the Gulf Coast lead to 31-24 with 3:42 left in the third.
Reynolds pushed the Bulldogs lead to 10 just nine seconds into the final quarter when he connected on a 32-yard field goal and made the score 34-24.
Houston then matched his kicking counterpart with a 23-yard field goal of his own to cut it to a touchdown, 34-27, with 9:56 left in the game.
Wells seemingly pushed the game out of reach with 4:32 left after scoring his third and final TD of the night to make it 41-24, but Hinds would once again claw back.
Summers and Redding connected on a deep ball again, this time from 33 yards out, and after the Houston point after was good, it was now a 41-34 game with 1:56 left.
However, the Bulldogs were able to come up with the Eagles onside kick attempt and ice the game after converting a first down with just over 45 seconds to play.
Redding had a monster night, finishing with four catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Ragsdale led the Eagles in the ground game, accounting for 92 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
Khiry Lucas (Cleveland), a sophomore defensive back, intercepted his third pass in as many games to lead the Eagles pass defense.
LeDarion Robinson (Utica), a sophomore safety, led the Eagles defensively with five solo tackles and four assists.
Hinds will return to South division action next Thursday, traveling to Wesson to take on heated rival Co-Lin Community College.
Game time is set for 7 p.m.
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