SCOOBA – Touting a No. 6 preseason ranking and four preseason All-Americans, second-year head coach Buddy Stephens’ East Mississippi Lions kick off the 2009 football campaign by taking on the Copiah-Lincoln Wolves Thursday night in Wesson. Game time for the season opener is set for 7 p.m. at Co-Lin’s H.L. Stone Stadium.
Thursday’s EMCC football opener will be broadcast by WFCA-FM radio (107.9) with Jason Crowder set to describe the play-by-play action and Glen Beard slated to provide the color analysis. The contest can be heard online via EMCC’s athletics website – http://athletics.eastms.edu – or by logging onto www.wfca108.com.
Coming off last year’s successful 8-2 season, including an MACJC North Division title and the school’s first state playoff appearance since 1984, the EMCC Lions are ranked sixth nationally in the NJCAA/ JC Football.com Preseason Top 25. East Mississippi is also rated ninth in the Seattle-based JC Grid-Wire Top 25 preseason rankings to begin the season.
Leading the Lions’ potent offensive attack will be preseason NJCAA All-American Randall Mackey of Port Sulphur, La. The 6-foot, 185-pound signal-caller topped the NJCAA ranks in passing (281.8 yards per game) and stood second in total offense (330.4 yds/gm) a year ago as a freshman. Helping to provide protection for EMCC’s sophomore standout is fellow NJCAA All-American Quartney Cox of West Point at one offensive tackle position.
With the team’s five leading pass catchers from a year ago having moved on to four-year schools, including Mississippi State wide receiver Leon Berry, three of EMCC’s four starting receivers this fall look to be transfer players. One of those newcomers is 6-foot-3 sophomore Lance Lewis of Concord, N.C., who teamed with Mississippi State basketball standout Dee Bost on Concord High School’s state championship football and basketball teams in 2006-07. Back for his second season, Starkville’s Pat Shed returns after collecting a team-leading 772 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a collegiate rookie for the Lions.
Defensively, East Mississippi’s pass rushing attack looks to again be headlined by preseason NJCAA All-American Claude Davis of Lakeland, Fla. The sophomore defensive end led the Lions with 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season, to go along with his 87 total tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Heading up EMCC’s linebacking corps will be fellow preseason NJCAA All-American Alvin Ellis of Columbus, who topped all Lion defenders with 113 total tackles last fall.
A year ago in the debut of the Buddy Stephens era of EMCC football, the Lions tallied four second-half touchdowns to claim a 28-9 season-opening home win over Copiah-Lincoln at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus. Mackey was 13-of-24 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns through the air in his collegiate debut, while Shed ran for 90 yards on 12 attempts, including a season-best 55-yard scoring jaunt in the fourth quarter.