2nd Ranked Lions Open Division Play Thursday Night

SCOOBA – With the school’s highest national ranking during the modern football era in hand, the second-ranked East Mississippi Lions begin defense of their 2008 MACJC North Division title Thursday by entertaining Holmes Community College on the Scooba campus. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.

Trailing only Blinn College of Texas in this week’s NJCAA/JCFootball.com Top 25, head coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC squad is 2-0 on the year after a season-opening 27-13 triumph at Copiah-Lincoln and last week’s 28-17 home victory over Jones County. The No. 2 national ranking is the school’s highest since the first EMJC team guided by legendary Hall of Fame coach Bob “Bull” Sullivan earned a No. 2 rating in another poll during the 1950 campaign.

A year ago in Stephens’ first year at the EMCC helm, the 2008 Lions went undefeated (6-0) in MACJC North Division play en route to posting an 8-2 overall record and making the school’s first state playoff appearance since 1984.

Statistically, East Mississippi enters the Holmes contest averaging 424.5 yards of total offense per contest, while allowing 269 yards an outing on defense to rank second in the state behind Copiah-Lincoln. Individually, preseason all-America quarterback Randall Mackey is averaging 225.5 yards of total offense per game, including 300 total yards in last week’s win over Jones County. The reigning NJCAA Region 23 Offensive MVP is 30-of-47 passing on the year for 295 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to ranking as the Lions’ leading rusher with 156 yards on 21 carries through the first two games.

Starkville’s Pat Shed has rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries for the MACJC’s third-leading rushing offense (235 yards per game). The Lions also rate as the state’s No. 3 team against the run this year, giving up only 80 yards per game on the ground. In addition, EMCC has nine different players with two or more catches for the season, while each of Mackey’s four touchdown aerials to date have been thrown to different receivers.

The Holmes Bulldogs are winless in their first two contests of the 2009 campaign, having dropped home decisions to Pearl River (45-7) and East Central (27-24). Thursday will mark their first road outing of the season.

Including last year’s 52-14 road win over Holmes, the EMCC Lions have prevailed in each of the last three gridiron meetings with the Bulldogs. Two years ago in Scooba, East Mississippi claimed a 31-30 overtime victory over Holmes, while having also scored a 9-6 win at Goodman during the 2006 season.

Thursday’s EMCC-Holmes contest 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 game can be heard online via EMCC’s athletics website – http://athletics.eastms.edu – or by logging onto www.wfca108.com.

Following this week’s action, the Lions will conclude their three-game September home stand by playing host to defending MACJC state champion Mississippi Gulf Coast, currently ranked 11th nationally, next Thursday (Sept. 17) at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field. A second straight ranked opponent will follow for East Mississippi, as the Lions venture to Senatobia to meet the 15th-ranked Rangers of Northwest Mississippi on Thursday, Sept. 24.

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