Making their sixth consecutive football playoff appearance under head coach Buddy Stephens, the second-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will play host to No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College during Saturday’s MACJC State Semifinals to be held on the Scooba campus. Kickoff time for Saturday’s top-five showdown is set for 2 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
In Saturday’s other state semifinal-round matchup, fourth-ranked and MACJC South Division Champion Jones County Junior College will entertain MACJC North Division runner-up Itawamba Community College in Ellisville. Saturday’s winners will then battle for the 2013 MACJC State Championship the following Saturday (Nov. 9) at a site to be determined. Based on the league’s rotational hosting policy, the highest-seeded MACJC North Division team remaining after the semifinals will serve as the host site for the Nov. 9 state title game. Otherwise, the highest-seeded remaining team from the MACJC’s South Division will earn the hosting honor.
Prior to Copiah-Lincoln Community College claiming last year’s state football championship with a 41-37 win over Gulf Coast, the previous five state gridiron titles were divided between East Mississippi and MGCCC. Coach Stephens’ EMCC Lions knocked off the Bulldogs on the Scooba campus both in 2011 (42-17) and 2009 (75-71) to collect the school’s first two state football championships. Gulf Coast captured state crowns in 2010, 2008 and 2007 with respective victories over Co-Lin (31-17), Pearl River (52-7) and Jones County (20-17).
Now a collective 53-10 (.841) overall with five MACJC North Division regular-season titles under Stephens’ six-year guidance, East Mississippi most recently wrapped up the program’s second undefeated regular season (9-0) in three years with last Thursday’s 59-13 home triumph over division rival Itawamba. Dating back to their unblemished (12-0) 2011 NJCAA National Championship campaign, the reigning three-time MACJC North Division champions have prevailed in 29 of their last 31 contests during that span. The lone losses during the team’s current three-year run were one-point setbacks at Itawamba (24-23) in last year’s regular-season finale and the following week at home to eventual state champion Co-Lin (47-46) in the state semifinals.
Having made just one previous state football playoff appearance (1984) in school history prior to Stephens’ arrival on the Scooba campus, East Mississippi is 4-4 all-time in state playoff competition through the years. EMCC’s Stephens owns a 4-3 head coaching mark in MACJC postseason contests, making state championship runs during prior odd-numbered years (2011 & 2009) and incurring semifinal-round setbacks in previous even-numbered seasons (2012, 2010 & 2008). During recent EMCC-hosted MACJC State Playoffs, the Lions knocked off Hinds (55-24) two years ago in the state semifinals prior to beating Gulf Coast by a 42-17 tally. In 2009, EMCC bested Jones County (26-16) in opening-round playoff action before edging the Bulldogs, 75-71 in regulation, in a memorable offensive showdown.
Including state championship wins over Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2011 and 2009, EMCC’s Stephens is 4-2 all-time versus the Bulldogs during his six-year head coaching stint with the Lions. In the most recent regular-season meeting in Scooba, East Mississippi christened the new Sullivan-Windham Field in 2011 by earning a 34-30 season-opening victory over Gulf Coast en route to capturing the national and state championships two years ago. In Stephens’ first meeting with MGCCC back in 2008, the upstart EMCC Lions upset the then-reigning national co-champions, 27-23, in Perkinston. Stephens’ pair of losses to the Bulldogs came during the 2010 (40-21 in Perkinston) and 2009 (43-26 in Scooba) campaigns.
Guided by 10th-year head football coach Steve Campbell, Mississippi Gulf Coast entered the current campaign as the NJCAA’s No. 1-ranked preseason team and stayed atop the national rankings until dropping a 52-42 home decision to Jones County during Week 4. Making a state-best seventh consecutive appearance in the MACJC State Playoffs, the 8-1 Bulldogs enter postseason play on a five-game winning streak after most recently posting a 49-7 division road triumph over East Central a week ago in Decatur.
Entering postseason play still ranked atop the JCGridiron.com and JCFootball.com national polls, East Mississippi currently stands just 6.5 voting points (208 to 201.5) behind top-ranked Georgia Military College in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 national poll. The Lions continue to receive three of the NJCAA’s nine first-place votes awarded each week, with GMC collecting the other half-dozen No. 1 tallies.
Saturday’s state playoff contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard describing the play-by-play action, and John Lyle Briggs serving as the Lions’ sideline reporter. The broadcast will also be carried live by Meridian’s WKZB-FM (95.1).
EMCC’s live video-streamed football playoff broadcast (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 Saturday’s radio broadcast will also be available at www.wfcafm108.com.