A redshirt freshman from Starkville, Henderson played the entire contest in place of All-American Randall Mackey, who sat out the game with nagging injuries to his knee and ankle. On the heels of last week's 88-yard rushing effort, including a 49-yard touchdown run, against Northeast Mississippi, Henderson's starting assignment against ICC was the first of his collegiate career.
After EMCC freshman Izauea Lanier picked off his third interception of the season - all coming in the last two games - on Itawamba's opening possession, Henderson capped a 10-play, 55-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring run up the middle with 8:39 left in the first quarter.
Special teams came into play early, as both teams capitalized on blocked punt opportunities late in the opening period. After Itawamba's Jerhushua Williams blocked and recovered a Phillip Dimino punt at the 3-yard line, ICC starting quarterback Ty Ferrell took the next snap up the middle and into the end zone. The point-after-touchdown attempt was blocked, keeping the score at 7-6 with 5:19 remaining in the quarter.
Despite turning the ball over by fumbling at midfield on their next offensive possession, the Lions' defense forced a three-and-out and set up EMCC's next score with a blocked punt of their own by wide receiver Derrick Steele. Four plays later, Henderson found sophomore Lance Lewis in the middle of the end zone for a 23-yard scoring strike with 39 seconds left in the opening period.
On the visitors' next possession, a 27-yard reverse by sophomore Bill Franks of State Line initiated a successful 9-play, 71-yard scoring drive that culminated with Henderson's second scoring burst of the game - from 4 yards out - and third of the season. Brett Spencer's third of four accurate PAT tries on the day put the Lions on top by a 21-6 tally with 9:18 left in the half.
The home-standing Indians looked to cut into the deficit on their ensuing possession, but an incomplete pass from Bret Jefcoat out of a fake field-goal formation on a fourth-and-long attempt kept it a two-score contest. After the two teams traded turnovers late in the half, EMCC benefitted from a successful fourth-and-10 conversion and scored on the final play of the first half. A play after they teamed up to keep the drive alive with an 11-yard connection, Lewis went up high between a pair of ICC defenders to haul in a 30-yard Henderson aerial to make the score 28-6 at the break.
A former football and basketball standout at Concord (N.C.) High School, Lewis finished the afternoon with a season-most eight catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns - his eighth and ninth scoring grabs of the year. He has now reached the century mark for receiving yards in three of his last four outings.
Neither team was able to put up points during the second stanza, as the Lions turned the ball over three more times over the final two quarters. Fortunately, EMCC's defensive unit collectively rose to the challenge by limiting Itawamba to just 62 yards rushing and 84 passing yards for the game. ICC fell to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the North Division with the setback.
Henderson finished the contest 27-of-38 through the air for 203 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He also ran for 82 yards on nine attempts, including the two scoring runs. Fellow former Starkville High School teammate Pat Shed topped the century mark on the ground for the fourth time on the year with exactly 100 rushing yards on 19 carries for the winners.
Having now won 14 consecutive MACJC North Division contests dating back to the 2007 campaign, including an 11-0 divisional mark and two straight North titles under second-year head coach Buddy Stephens, the 7-1 EMCC Lions will look to close out a possible second consecutive unblemished North Division slate by playing host to Mississippi Delta on Thursday (Oct. 22). Kickoff at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus is set for 7 p.m.
Following the regular season, East Mississippi will make a school-first second straight MACJC state playoff appearance by playing host to the South's No. 2 seed in semifinal-round action on Saturday, Oct. 31. The state championship game will be played the following Saturday on Nov. 7 on the home field of the highest-seeded North Division team remaining.