Moreover, thirteen was the lucky charm for the Northeast as the Tigers got their first on-the-field win since Oct. 2007 Thursday night when Northeast (1-2, 1-0 in North Division) knocked off Itawamba 28-21 in front of a packed Keenum Stadium.
Northeast's last on-the-field win came 13 tries ago via a 36-6 decision against Coahoma Community College in Oct. 2007. The Tigers received a forfeit win from Hinds Community College during the 2008 campaign for their 1-8 record.
The Tigers' seven-point victory also gave second-year head coach Ricky Smither his first on-the-field win as well.
"It's bigger than life," Smither said. "We have worked our tails off for two years to get this."
Northeast's defense played a major role in Thursday's win as the Tiger defense recovered a fumble in the end zone and returned two interceptions for scores in the second half.
"The defense played well all night," Smither said. "Our guys came out tonight with a lot of spirit."
LaDarrius Madden (Leighton, Ala.) put the Tigers up 21-0 with 5:51 left in the third quarter when he picked off a Bret Jefcoat pass at the Tiger 38-yard line and rumbled 62 yards to paydirt.
"It felt good...it felt really good", said Madden about his first interception of the year.
But, Northeast's defense wasn't done.
John Ware (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) moved the Tigers back up by 21 when he stepped in front of an Indian pass at the Tiger 40 and jetted up the home sideline for a 28-7 lead after Tyler Turner (Horn Lake) punched home his fourth extra point of the night.
"We finally got paid with a win", explained Ware. "Even though I was banged up a little bit, I knew I had to take it to the house and thankfully I did."
Northeast jumped on Itawamba early and kept the hammer down until late in the third quarter.
JaMorris Ricks (Leighton, Ala.) bowled in from a yard out with 5:55 showing in the first quarter putting the host up 7-0 and Ky'Vari Bolden started the defense scoring when the Hoover, Ala.-native jumped on a fumble in the end zone with 13:22 remaining in the first half.
Northeast took its largest lead of the night – 21-0 – when Madden continued the defensive effort with his 62-yard return in the third.
"We could have been playing the Super Bowl champs and it wouldn't have mattered," said Smither. "Now that it has set in, I am glad it was with them because we have a great rivalry."
Itawamba (1-2, 0-1) made a game of it late when Jefcoat hit Marti Shelby on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 42 ticks left in the third quarter and after Ware's score, the Indians added two late touchdowns.
Tromarcus Toney, who was filling in for an injured Jefcoat, found Khiry Karriem on a 25-yard streak down the visiting sidelines to cut the game to 28-14 and Evan Lackey made it a one-score game with 2:52 left when he found the end zone from four yards out but it was too little too late for the Indians as Northeast's Adam Funk (Tupelo) recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Northeast 28, Itawamba 21
@ Keenum Stadium, Booneville
Itawamba 0 0 7 14 -- 21
Northeast 7 7 7 7 -- 28
NE – JaMorris Ricks 1 run (Tyler Turner kick), 5:55
NE – Ky'Vari Bolden fumble recovery in end zone (Turner kick), 13:22
NE – LaDarrius Madden 62 interception return (Turner kick), 5:51
ICC – Marti Shelby 26 pass from Bret Jefcoat (Jefcoat kick), :42
NE – John Ware 60 interception return (Turner kick), 9:07
ICC – Khiry Karriem 25 pass from Tromarcus Toney (Darisu Garrett kick), 5:29
ICC – Evan Lackey 4 run (Jefcoat kick), 2:52