The fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off their first five-game, regular-season home football slate since 2010 by playing host to traditional gridiron rival East Central Community College Thursday evening on the Scooba campus. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
For the second consecutive week to open EMCC’s 2013 campaign, Thursday’s contest against East Central will be the featured JUCO Weekly MACJC Football Game of the Week.
On an individual note heading into the Lions’ home opener, EMCC freshman wide receiver/punt returner C.J. Bates has added NJCAA Special Teams Player of the Week honors to his 2013 résumé after previously collecting MACJC/jucoweekly.org Player of the Week recognition earlier in the week. The former Louisville High School standout accounted for 178 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns during EMCC’s opener on four punt returns for 100 yards and four receptions for 78 yards.
As a team, head coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC Lions moved up three notches to No. 5 nationally in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 football poll following their 49-6 season-opening road victory over Pearl River Community College a week ago in Poplarville. East Mississippi maintains its No. 4 national rating this week in both the www.JCGridiron.com and www.JCFootball.com rankings.
The Warriors of East Central opened the Ken Karcher coaching era by dropping a 40-7 road decision to Itawamba Community College last Thursday in Fulton. Karcher, who succeeded Brian Anderson at the ECCC football helm, most recently spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University. He previously served as the head football coach at Liberty University for six seasons (2000-2005).
Traditionally hailed for many years as the long-standing “Scooba-Decatur” football rivalry, the Lions and Warriors had not met on the gridiron for four seasons (2008-2011) prior to last year’s 51-7 EMCC triumph in Decatur. A season ago at ECCC’s Bailey Stadium, the visiting Lions forced four first-half East Central turnovers while scoring 38 unanswered points en route to posting the convincing 44-point victory. Prior to last season, the Warriors had prevailed during each of the previous six EMCC-ECCC football meetings that spanned nine years (1999-2007), including East Central’s 31-20 road win over the Lions played at the original Sullivan-Windham Field in 2007.
Now 45-10 overall in the five-plus seasons under Stephens’ guidance, the EMCC Lions are a collective 21-6 at home dating back to the 2008 campaign. With a current 10-game home winning streak in regular-season action, the Lions sustained their first home loss at the new Sullivan-Windham Field during last year’s season-ending 47-46 setback to eventual state champion Copiah-Lincoln Community College in the MACJC semifinals. EMCC owns a 10-1 overall home mark, including playoff games, since the school’s new 5,000-seat facility opened prior to the Lions’ 2011 NJCAA national championship season.
During last week’s 49-6 win at Pearl River to open the season, the EMCC Lions out-gained the Wildcats, 452-214, in total offense yardage. Making his first collegiate start for the Lions, sophomore quarterback Dontreal Pruitt completed 21-of-33 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns against PRCC. The former Laurel High School standout connected with seven different receivers on the night while distributing his touchdown passes to four different receivers.
Along with a solid, season-opening offensive performance as a team, the Lions also made headlines defensively with three pass interceptions during Week 1. Sophomore defensive back A.J. Stamps, from Vicksburg, earned MACJC/jucoweekly.org Defensive Player of the Week honors by picking off a pair of pass interceptions against the Wildcats, including an official 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
EMCC’s football games this season will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard set to describe the play-by-play action, and John Lyle Briggs serving as the Lions’ sideline reporter. EMCC’s 2013 football radio broadcasts are also slated to be carried live by Meridian’s WKZB-FM (95.1).
Throughout the season, EMCC’s weekly live video-streamed football broadcasts (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-football) will be available in HD by accessing EMCC’s athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com. An alternate audio stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at www.wfcafm108.com.