Fans who attended the showdown between the Northwest Community College Rangers and the Pearl River Wildcats expected to see three things– plenty of offense, a lot of passes, and a terrific game.
They got all three.
Northwest overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit and rallied in the remaining two quarters, but fell 38-35 Sept. 10 at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia. The No. 15 Rangers dropped to 2-1 overall, while No. 5 Pearl River moved to 3-0.
In a clash between the top two passing offenses in the country, the Rangers and Wildcats combined to complete 48 of 91 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns. Northwest and Pearl River each racked up 478 total yards.
"This was a great game tonight," said Ranger Head Coach Ricky Woods. "If you didn't get your money's worth, you don't like football. We played hard tonight against a real good football team. Our guys have nothing to be ashamed of."
Northwest won their first two games of the season by committing just two turnovers. The Rangers lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions in the first half alone against Pearl River which led to Northwest's 24-0 hole.
Ranger sophomore quarterback Casey Weston of Prattville, Ala., who completed 24 of 50 attempts for 421 yards and three touchdowns, hooked up with sophomore receiver Michael Lindsey of St. Petersburg, Fla., on a 78-yard pass play to cut Northwest's deficit to 31-28 with 11:06 remaining in the game.
Pearl River countered with a one-yard run by quarterback Jones to push the lead to 38-28 with 8:10 left, but the Rangers answered right back with a four-yard run by Jo Jo Cox of Macon, Ga., with 4:36 on the clock. Cox was Northwest's leading rusher with 50 yard on 10 carries and also caught six passes for 77 yards.
The Wildcats were able to use up the remaining minutes on their next possession to preserve the victory.
"We would have loved to have the ball one more time, but it didn't work out for us," added Woods. "Both defense were worn out and it showed, especially in the fourth quarter."
Weston's 50 pass attempts were the second most in Northwest football history and his 421 passing yards rank fourth on the school's all-time list.
Pearl River capitalized on the Rangers' four turnovers in the first half and turned them into 21 points.
The Wildcats scored after one of Weston's interceptions in the first quarter when quarterback Emil Jones hooked up with receiver Willie Downs on a nine-yard touchdown. That duo hooked up again in the second period on a 24-yard scoring play.
Pearl River also returned a fumble by Northwest tailback Germichael Sanford of Courtland 44 yards for a touchdown, and used a 22-yard field goal by Travis Bradley to build its 24-0 lead at halftime.
The Rangers went to work in the third period and got on the board when Weston tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Xavier Lee of Pope.
Northwest added another score on the Wildcats' ensuing possession when cornerback Stacey Lake of Charleston returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown to trim the margin to 24-14 with 5:19 left in the third.
Pearl River answered when Jones threw a 31-yard scoring strike to Desmond Ratliff.
Weston, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 270 yards in the second half, rallied the Rangers with a pair of touchdown passes in a four-minute span. First, Weston hit receiver Devon Wilson of Oxford with a 25-yard scoring toss, then threw a 78-yarder to Lindsey. Lindsey finished with three catches for 120 yards.
The touchdown to Lindsey came after Northwest linebacker John Knox of Statesboro, Ga., recovered a fumble to stop a Wildcat drive at the Ranger 10-yard line.
"Good teams cause turnovers and turn them into points" said Woods. "Pearl River did it in the first half and we did it in the second."
Northwest opens MACJC north division play by traveling to Fulton Thursday, Sept. 17 to battle Itawamba. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., with live radio coverage provided by WQLJ FM 93.7. The game can also be heard at www.northwestms.edu.