With EMCC trailing 23-13 late in the final period, Mackey connected with sophomore Wayne Bonner on a 29-yard scoring strike with 3:59 left in the contest. Phillip Dimino’s successful point-after-touchdown attempt made it a 23-20 contest. Gulf Coast had a chance to essentially seal the victory on its next possession, but Greg Jenkins’ toss on a fourth-and-five attempt sailed over the head of tight end Kevin Helms in the end zone. East Mississippi got the ball back on its own 23-yard line with 2:08 remaining in the game. Entering the contest ranked among the national leaders in total offense and passing yards per game, Mackey accounted for all 77 yards on the winning scoring drive by going 6-of-6 through the air for 58 yards and picking up the other 19 yards on the ground. He scored from three yards out with 21 seconds left for the game-winning score.
For the night, Mackey, a three-time all-state quarterback who led Bastrop (La.) High School to three consecutive Class 4A state championships, threw for 441 yards and three touchdowns on 36-of-58 passing, while also gaining 86 rushing yards on 12 carries, to amass 527 yards of total offense in the game. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound signal-caller connected with eight different receivers during the evening, led by sophomore A.J. Brown of Meridian with nine catches for 70 yards. Bonner, a second-year receiver from Milledgeville, Ga., snared six Mackey aerials for 98 yards, including scoring grabs of 31 and 29 yards. Fellow Georgia native Leon Berry of Griffin also had a half-dozen receptions for 66 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Special teams play contributed greatly to EMCC’s victory in Perkinston, as the Lions’ Kyle Roberts of Starkville blocked field-goal attempts of 48 and 45 yards by All-American MGCCC kicker Sean Brauchle in the first half. Freshman defensive end Claude Davis of Lakeland, Fla., also blocked a Brauchle PAT attempt in the opening half.
The second-ranked Bulldogs, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 in South Division play, squandered other late-game opportunities that resulted in their 15-game winning streak being snapped by the Lions. After nine consecutive running plays on a drive that began on its own 20-yard line, Gulf Coast’s Earvin Moore fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line. Pinned deep on their end of the field, the Lions went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their own end zone. After starting in excellent field position at the EMCC 30-yard line, the Bulldogs once again had a chance to put some additional points on the board. However, a bad snap exchange did not enable Brauchle to get off a 40-yard field-goal attempt. Following Mackey’s fourth interception of the contest and a resulting 32-yard interception return by linebacker Chris White, the Bulldogs had the ball first-and-goal on the 5-yard line with a golden opportunity to close out the contest. Two plays later, a bad snap from center was recovered by East Mississippi’s Alex Hill to set up Mackey’s late-game heroics.
From their own 10-yard line, Mackey hit Brown for eight yards, followed by successive completions to fellow Meridian High School standout Montrez Mosley of 47 and 5 yards, and capped by the 29-yard touchdown toss to Bonner with just under four minutes remaining in the contest. Mosley finished the game with five receptions for a game-high 113 yards.
After playing three consecutive games on the road, coach Buddy Stephens’ 3-1 Lions return to Sullivan-Windham Field on the EMCC campus to play two straight home divisional contests. EMCC, 1-0 in North Division action, plays host to Northwest Mississippi Community College at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, and will welcome Coahoma Community College during Homecoming festivities on Saturday, Oct. 4. Kickoff for EMCC’s Homecoming football contest is set for 2 p.m.