With Hurricane Ike churning in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico just 200 miles to the south, the Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers ran into a different kind of storm Sept. 11 in Poplarville.
Northwest committed six turnovers and never recovered from a slow start en route to falling to the No. 8 Pearl River Wildcats 18-0. It's the first time the Rangers have been shutout since the 1999 season when they suffered a 3-0 setback to Southwest Mississippi.
The Rangers fell to 1-2 overall, while Pearl River improved to 3-0.
"The bottom line is we made too many mistakes early, gave up three big plays, had six turnovers, and played Pearl River," said Northwest Head Coach Ricky Woods. "They made the plays when they had to, but we didn't."
Pearl River scored two touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the contest to claim a 12-0 lead. The shell shocked Rangers had trouble getting momentum back on their side the rest of game. Northwest managed just 63 yards of total offense in the first half and four first downs.
Pearl River extended its lead to 18-0 midway through the second period when tailback Marcus Ball scored on a one-yard run.
The Rangers showed plenty of signs of life in the second half and moved the ball effectively against a rugged Pearl River defense. Northwest racked up 193 yards after halftime, while the Ranger defense buckled down and limited the Wildcats to just 65.
Turnovers doomed Northwest. The Rangers turned the ball over four times in the second half and failed to convert on a couple of fourth down conversions. Northwest moved the ball into Pearl River territory several times, but couldn't score. One of those possessions was a first and goal at the Wildcat five-yard line.
There were several bright spots for the Rangers. Freshman receiver Marquise Green of Byhalia had seven receptions for a season-high 138 yards, while freshman tailback Tijuan Green of Warner Robins, Ga., had a season-high 76 yards on 16 carries.
Northwest's defense was led by sophomore linebacker Thomas Majors of Nashville, Tenn., who collected 12 tackles.
"We have played two of the best teams in the state the first three weeks of the season, but I think that will help us down the road," added Woods. "We are still a good football team. We just need to start playing with more confidence, and get ready for next week."
The Rangers will host Itawamba in their MACJC north division opener Thursday, Sept. 18 at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia. Kick off is set for 6:30 p.m.