Jones College’s Zach Causey (90) and Brodarius Lewis (36) celebrate after a sack of the Northwest quarterback last week.

ELLISVILLE – Tenth-ranked Jones College has impressed in its first two games of the season.

But that means little heading into this week’s MACCC South Division opener at East Central. Head coach Steve Buckley said the game will be a challenge for his Bobcats.

“It is our first time taking a bunch of young kids on the road and that’s always an experience,” he said. “We had better be ready to play. I’ve known (East Central) Coach (Ken) Karcher for a long time. They know what they are doing and they have an excellent football team.”

The Bobcats visit Decatur for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff on Thursday. The game will air on JCJC.TV, WLAU-FM, 99.3, and with Mark Easley and Luke Johnson on the call.

The Bobcats (2-0) have beaten Northeast Mississippi 41-17 and No. 14 Northwest Mississippi 31-9 in its first two games. The Rangers were second in the nation until they lost to Jones.

East Central (0-2) has lost to No. 11 East Mississippi 32-7 and Mississippi Delta, 16-14. The Warriors led MDCC 14-6 entering the final quarter, but a 35-yard field goal by the Trojans with 1:49 left proved to be the difference.

“If you look at both films, they’ve played two close ballgames,” Buckley said. “They have lost to two teams that are (combined) 4-0 in East Mississippi and Mississippi Delta.”

Buckley could not find much fault with the Bobcats in their play vs. Northwest.

“We played extremely hard and we played extremely physical,” he said. “Most importantly, I thought we executed in all three phases of the game. The kids were locked in, focused and ready to play. At the same time, there is a lot of improvement that can be made.

“We left some plays on the field on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to clean up a lot of little things to be really good. But we had a lot of things going our way the other night.”

On offense, quarterback Quaterius Hawkins (Bastrop, Louisiana) was sharp, completing 20-of-28 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. In the week one win over Northeast, he was just 6-of-18 for 63 yards.

“I think DaeDae is a heckuva quarterback,” Buckley said of Hawkins. “When things don’t always go like you want in the passing game, everybody thinks it’s the quarterback and it’s not always the quarterback. We threw and caught the ball well. I think we had one drop, maybe two, last week and we had six the week before.

“The receivers played excellent. What DaeDae does does not surprise me as his coach. He was locked in and ready to play like he always is and had a really big night.”

Wide receiver Bud Tolbert (Water Valley) had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and wide receiver Qua Sanders (West Lowndes) had five catches for 94 yards and a score. Running back La’Damian Webb (Opelika, Alabama) had another big game with 161 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 61-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Buckley noted the play of the offensive line made it possible for the Bobcats to pile up 449 yards of offense.

“It starts up front,” he said. “The offensive line played well. They (Northwest) were going to try and stop La’Damian and we knew we had to throw the ball to win the ballgame. We threw the ball and caught the ball well and it starts with the protection. The offensive line did a great job giving us time.”

On the other side of the ball, the Bobcats limited a potent Northwest offense to only 11 first downs and 276 yards of offense. Defensive back Lardarius Webb Jr. (Jackson Academy) had six tackles, two tackles for loss and three pass breakups. Linebacker Mike Cockream (Ray Brooks) led the team in tackles for the second straight game with seven stops and two quarterback hurries.

“The defensive line did well,” Buckley said. “I think we held them to 86 yards rushing. It was just a tremendous effort on that side of the ball. Little Webb played well. Our back end is very talented. They are smart kids, they align correctly and they cover well. They understand man and they understand zone.

“It was a great team effort on defense. (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Lytrel) Pollard and the defensive staff did a great job preparing for Northwest, who can score some points.”

After the Rangers cut the lead to 17-9 early in the fourth quarter, Jones started its next drive at its own 5-yard line after Kendall Coleman (Choctaw County) mishandled the kickoff.

The Bobcats then went on a 95-yard, 14-play drive that used up 7:19 off the clock. Hawkins connected with Sanders from 10 yards out for the touchdown to make it 24-9 with just 5:27 left in the game.

“I thought the key to the whole night was when Kendall fumbled the kickoff return and we got the ball at the 5-yard line and went 95 yards after they score,” Buckley said. “That was a big answer for us.”

La’Damian Webb’s 61-yard scoring run with 3:10 remaining sealed it.

But Buckley knows the Bobcats cannot rest on last week’s performance as they get ready for East Central, especially with this being the division opener for both teams.

“There is a lot of parity in this league right now and if we are not ready to play it will be a long night for the Bobcats,” he said. “East Central is well-coached and they play hard. They do a great job scheme-wise. We had better be ready to play.”

The Bobcats will make their longest road trip of the season next week when they travel to Itawamba for a 6:30 p.m. contest on Sept. 23.

East Central goes to Southwest on Sept. 23.