Booneville, Miss. - Anthony Rush came to Tiger Stadium well prepared to battle for the Northeast Mississippi Community College football program.
Rush set new career-highs in two statistical categories to guide the Tigers' defensive effort against Mississippi Delta Community College. But the Trojans spoiled Northeast's homecoming festivities with a 28-20 win on Thursday, October 1.
The Raleigh, N.C., native posted phenomenal numbers against Mississippi Delta with game-bests of 13 total stops and 4.5 tackles for loss. Rush added the lone sack of the contest for the Tigers to his resume as well.
"I watched them on film and they weren't really blocking. So I just shot off the ball and used my hands," said Rush. "Our coaches always preach about lineman assignments and execution. I just had to make plays."
Rush set the stage for Northeast's initial scoring drive by bringing down quarterback Nick Conley in the backfield for a loss of 15 yards. The Trojans could not make up the deficit and were forced into a three-and-out situation.
Austin Holloway's inaugural field goal with the Tigers cut their deficit to 7-3 moments later. Kendrick Doss was successful on a fourth-down conversion run five plays earlier to keep the possession alive.
Donta Armstrong put Northeast in scoring position again later in the second quarter with a beautiful 49-yard punt return. A chip shot 24-yard make from Booneville's Holloway brought the Tigers within 7-6 with 6:55 remaining before halftime.
Mississippi Delta extended its lead to 14-6 at the break after Ja'Bril Haymon raced 55 yards untouched for a touchdown. Haymon also reached the end zone in the opening period for the Trojans on a short scamper.
Conley gave Mississippi Delta (2-4, 2-1) a seemingly comfortable advantage of 28-6 following the intermission with touchdown passes to Juwan Dickey and Michael Williams.
But Bailey Walker entered the matchup off the bench to engineer a strong come-from-behind effort by Northeast. The Lake Cormorant High School product accounted for two touchdowns over a period of three minutes and 41 seconds.
Another lengthy punt return by Armstrong put the Tigers immediately in the red zone. Walker did the rest with a 13-yard toss to a wide-open Khalid Kornegay that made the score 28-13 in favor of the Trojans.
The duo connected once again on Northeast's ensuing drive. Kornegay snagged a pass from Walker, broke one tackle and crossed the goal line to bring the Tigers within one possession of the lead.
"I felt comfortable when I got back there. It was unbelievable," Walker said. "I'm getting more reps and my receivers trust in me. I try to make big plays happen. That's just the way it is."
Northeast (1-5, 1-3) gained one chance to bring the contest into a tie, but Quartez Harris forced a fumble on fourth-and-goal that the Tigers recovered behind the line to gain for a turnover on downs.
Armstrong concluded his incredible outing with 298 return yards overall. The Bruce High School graduate fielded five punts for 175 yards and also had 123 yards on four kickoffs.
"It was a great evening," said Armstrong. "God gave me the ability to come out here and do what I do best. It just comes naturally. When I see the defense coming, I just spin. That's what I did."
Walker paced Northeast offensively with 102 all-purpose yards, including a team-high 64 yards rushing on eight carries. He added a career-long 59-yard punt as well for the Tigers.
"(Walker) stepped up and played well down the stretch and made some plays which were very valuable," Northeast head coach Greg Davis said. "He continues to progress as a quarterback and as a leader."
Tiberias Lampkin frequently touched the pigskin as well and compiled 54 yards on the ground with 14 attempts. Armstrong snagged three catches for 29 yards as well for Northeast.
Northeast concludes the home portion of its schedule on Thursday, October 8 when rival Itawamba Community College (3-3, 2-2) visits the City of Hospitality for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.