SCOOBA – In a battle of MACJC North Division foes unbeaten in division play, the fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College (5-0, 2-0) will entertain Holmes Community College (3-2, 3-0) Saturday afternoon to culminate 2012 homecoming weekend festivities on the Scooba campus. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
As part of this weekend’s homecoming festivities, East Mississippi is set to recognize the school’s eight-member 2012 Sports Hall of Fame induction class during halftime activities of Saturday’s EMCC-Holmes contest. Also taking place at halftime will be the recognition of EMCC’s 2012 Alumnus of the Year recipient and Distinguished Service Award winner, along with the presentation of EMCC’s 2012 homecoming court. In addition, EMCC’s new Student Union will be named in honor of EMCC President Dr. Rick Young during a 10:30 a.m. dedication, followed by a 1:30 p.m. unveiling of a 7-foot bronze statue of legendary Lions football coach Bob “Bull” Sullivan.
Maintaining their No. 5 national ranking in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 Rankings, head coach Buddy Stephens’ 5-0 EMCC Lions received four of the nine first-place votes following last Thursday’s 48-17 road victory over Coahoma Community College. Their other divisional triumph to date came the week prior via the shutout route (56-0) against Mississippi Delta on the heels of season-opening, non-division victories over Pearl River (35-15), East Central (51-7) and Southwest Mississippi (59-6).
The top-five teams in the NJCAA’s current poll all remained the same, though Butler and Arizona Western switched places at second and third, respectively. With four first-place votes, Iowa Western maintained hold of the No. 1 spot, while Northwest Mississippi edged EMCC by just 2.5 voting points for the fourth position.
Winners of 17 consecutive games overall dating back to last year’s undefeated (12-0) NJCAA national championship season as well as owners of a current 17-game win string in regular-season action going back to 2010, the EMCC Lions remained atop the national polls as accorded by the JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 Rankings along with J.C. Grid-Wire in the JCFootball.com National Top 25.
Averaging slightly less than 50 points per game offensively and giving up an average of only nine points an outing on the year, East Mississippi’s team statistical numbers are equally impressive. The Lions are accounting for an average of 546.4 yards of total offense (294.4 passing & 252.0 rushing) per contest while allowing an average of only 269.2 total yards defensively (186.2 passing & 83.0 rushing) for the season.
Individually, freshman quarterback Quez Johnson, of Starkville, ranks tied for third nationally with 15 touchdown passes thrown in addition to standing ninth among the NJCAA’s statistical leaders with an average of 249.6 passing yards per game. On the receiving end, seven Lion pass-catchers have eight or more grabs on the year. Sophomore transfer receiver Corey Smith, of Akron, Ohio, leads the way averaging 19 yards on 23 catches, including six touchdown receptions.
The Lions’ equally potent running attack features five players with 132 rushing yards or more through the year’s first five games. All-star candidate Rodriguez Moore, of Bastrop, La., headlines EMCC’s stable of running backs with 476 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 59 attempts for an average of 8.1 yards per tote.
As a team on defense, East Mississippi’s stopper unit has registered 14 shutout quarters in five outings this season. The Lions have allowed just 13 second-half points on the year, including scoreless third quarters in every contest thus far.
Guided by second-year head coach Jeff Koonz, the Bulldogs of Holmes Community College are 3-2 overall on the campaign with all three victories coming against MACJC North Division opponents. After dropping non-division decisions to Jones County (10-8) and Mississippi Gulf Coast (46-12), Holmes has rallied to post consecutive division victories over Northeast Mississippi (34-14), Itawamba (14-12) and Mississippi Delta (24-14). Last week in Goodman, the Bulldogs scored 24 unanswered points to pull out their 24-14 come-from-behind home win over the MDCC Trojans.
In the recent series history between these two divisional foes, East Mississippi has prevailed in each of the last six gridiron meetings with Holmes dating back to 2006. Since Stephens took over the EMCC coaching duties, the Lions previously knocked off Holmes in Scooba during the 2010 (38-14) and 2009 (41-14) seasons. EMCC recorded road victories over the Bulldogs a year ago (56-35) and in 2008 (52-14).
Saturday’s homecoming contest between EMCC and Holmes will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM radio (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. The live video-streamed broadcast will be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-football and can be accessed through EMCC’s athletics website - http://athletics.eastms.edu. An alternate audio stream of the radio broadcast will also be available by logging onto www.wfcafm108.com.