Northwest, which finished 10-0 last year, pushed its win streak to 21 consecutive games and gave Head Coach Bobby Franklin the 175th win of his 21-year career. The victory didn't come easily for the Rangers who struggled for the first 30 minutes of play and trailed 10-7 at halftime.
"We looked kind of sluggish in the first half, especially on offense," said Franklin. "You expect to see some miscommunication in the first game of the season, but I am proud of the way we came out in the second half and took control of the game. We have some areas we need to work on, but we will get better."
The Rangers, who are ranked No. 3 in the country in the first NJCAA poll of the regular season, got solid performances from first-year players like freshman quarterback Bobby Robison of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., who attempted a school-record 55 passes. Robison completed 30 of those tries for 353 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was University of Georgia transfer Durell Robinson of Lyman, S.C., who totaled eight catches for 139 yards and two scores.
Jones County grabbed the lead in the first quarter when quarterback Charles Hales scored on a 13-yard run. Northwest tied the game in the second period on a one-yard run by quarterback Robison, but the Bobcats countered just before halftime with a 34-yard field goal by Nickolas Terracina to claim the 10-7 advantage at intermission.
The Rangers took the opening possession of the second half and moved the ball down the field with its no-huddle offense. The drive ended with the Robison to Robinson connection hooking up on a 34-yard touchdown pass. A 35-yard field goal by Northwest placekicker Brent Smith of Byhalia two minutes later upped the Ranger lead to 17-10.
The Bobcats knotted the score at 17-17 on the final play of the third quarter on an 82-yard pass from quarterback Hales to receiver Alonzo Nix. On a third down play, Nix caught a short pass, then got by the Ranger defensive back Jamaal Jackson of Bruce who made a diving attempt to break up the play.
The fourth period belonged to Northwest which claimed the lead for good with 11:40 left in the contest on a 40-yard bomb from Robison to Robinson. Following a 30-yard field goal by Jones County's Terracina, Robison put the final touches on the scoreboard with a 21-yard toss to receiver Antonio Hill of Belle Glade, Fla.