EMCC set for State Title Showdown against Northwest

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SCOOBA – In a rematch of last year’s MACJC state championship game with major national championship implications, the top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College (9-1) will travel to Senatobia to meet the No. 4 Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers (8-1) in Saturday’s state title contest. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Bobby Franklin Field.
The EMCC Lions (2013, ’14 & ’16) and Northwest Rangers (2015) have combined to claim the last four state football championships, including three straight national titles (2013-15) between the two MACJC North Division foes. A year ago (Nov. 12) in Scooba, East Mississippi posted a 38-30 home decision over Northwest to claim the program’s fifth state title during an eight-year span. Last month (Oct. 12) in Senatobia, the Rangers snapped EMCC’s winning streaks of 17 consecutive games overall and 28 straight regular-season division contests by earning a 61-38 decision over the then-No. 1 Lions.
EMCC owns an 11-3 state playoff record during head coach Buddy Stephens’ 10-year head coaching career, including last week’s 24-20 road win over MACJC South Division champion Jones County. The Lions are 5-0 in state championship game appearances with four of the wins coming at home (2009, ’11, ’13 & ’16) and one on the road (2014 at Copiah-Lincoln).
Saturday’s MACJC state championship rematch will pit EMCC’s nationally third-ranked scoring offense (48.2 ppg) against Northwest Mississippi’s No. 3-ranked scoring defense (12.4 ppg). The Lions also enter the contest ranked fourth in the NJCAA’s team statistical rankings in total offense (502.5 yds/gm) as well as No. 4 in passing yards (295.3 yds/gm). On the ground, East Mississippi is tied for second nationally with 36 total rushing touchdowns on the year. On the other side of the field, the Northwest Rangers stand seventh nationally in allowing an average of just 245.6 yards of total offense per game (161.6 passing yds/gm & 84.0 rushing yds/gm).
Individually at the quarterback position, EMCC’s Lindsey Scott Jr. ranks fourth nationally in passing yards (284.0 yds/gm) and third in pass completion percentage (65.6%). Northwest’s Jack Abraham is close behind at seventh (246.2 passing yds/gm) and sixth (64.9%) nationally in the respective passing categories.
On the receiving end, the Lions feature nine players with double-digit catch totals on the season, led by Kirk Merritt’s 47 receptions and 585 receiving yards. Northwest’s top pass-catcher is Cole Rotenberry with 43 grabs for 655 yards.
EMCC’s rushing game is spearheaded by reigning MACJC Offensive Player of the Week Tyrell Price, who enters Saturday’s contest 104 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark and ranked atop the NJCAA’s statistical leaders with 20 rushing touchdowns for the year. The Lafayette High School product notched his fifth 100-yard rushing effort and seventh multi-TD outing of the season with 112 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries last week at Jones County. Northwest’s formidable three-headed rushing attack features Kevin Perkins (661 yds & 9 TDs), Quarderman Sloan (564/9) and Monta Thomas (435/7).
As the school’s all-time leader in career wins with a decade-long head coaching mark of 96-13 (.881) and ranked as the NJCAA’s all-time leader in career winning percentage for coaches with 100 or more career games coached, EMCC’s Stephens owns a career mark of 9-2 against Northwest Mississippi (5-1 in Scooba & 4-1 in Senatobia).
Additionally through the years, Stephens’ EMCC teams are collectively 16-2 against teams ranked in the NJCAA’s Top 5. Five of those wins have been versus Northwest Mississippi over the last seven seasons, including last year’s pair of home wins over the Rangers (51-32 during homecoming & 38-30 in state championship).
Having previously spent four straight weeks as the NJCAA’s No. 1-ranked team earlier this season, East Mississippi has ascended back to the top of the national poll during the past month after falling to the No. 7 spot following the team’s Oct. 12th loss at Northwest Mississippi. Dating back to the beginning of October and including Saturday’s upcoming Top 5 showdown in Senatobia, the Lions will have battled five MACJC foes ranked 15th nationally or higher, including recent road wins over then-No. 7 Hinds and then-No. 6 Jones County. EMCC also owns regular-season victories over JCJC and Itawamba, currently ranked 10th and 14th, respectively, in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 poll.
Tickets for Saturday’s MACJC state championship game are $5 for general admission and $3 for other community college students. Children six years of age and younger are admitted free. The title tilt will also be available online at the schools’ respective athletics websites, www.emccathletics.com/live and www.nwccrangers.com/watch.
In addition, Saturday’s championship contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively. The broadcast will also be carried by EMCC’s campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
Fans are also encouraged to follow EMCC Athletics through the college’s athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@EMCCAthletics) via the school’s social media hub at www.EMCCAthletics.com/Social-Media-Hub.