Leading the NJCAA in both scoring offense and scoring defense, the fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off their MACJC North Division football slate Thursday evening by traveling to Moorhead to take on the Mississippi Delta Community College Trojans. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Jim Randall Field on the MDCC campus.
Averaging 59 points offensively and limiting the opposition to just two points per game on the year, sixth-year head football coach Buddy Stephens’ 3-0 EMCC Lions enter Week 4 of the current campaign having outscored their MACJC South Division opponents by a collective margin of 177-6. With a 49-6, season-opening win at Pearl River followed by consecutive home shutout victories over East Central (59-0) and Southwest Mississippi (69-0), EMCC’s composite halftime advantage through the first three games is 128-0.
Ranked fifth nationally for the third straight week in the NJCAA Top 20 poll, East Mississippi has inched up yet another notch to No. 2 nationally both in this week’s JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 as well as the JCFootball.com national junior college team rankings.
As two-time reigning MACJC North Division champions and with four division titles in the past five years, the EMCC Lions are collectively 47-10 (.825) overall and 27-3 (.900) in regular-season division play dating back to the 2008 season when Stephens took over football coaching duties in Scooba. During that span, the Lions had claimed 14 straight division road wins prior to last year’s 24-23 setback at Itawamba during the 2012 regular-season finale.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Jeff Tatum, an MDCC alumnus and former Trojan quarterback, this year’s Mississippi Delta squad is winless in three attempts this season. Following season-opening losses to Hinds (49-7) in Moorhead and at Pearl River (30-14), Delta opened division play a week ago by falling at Itawamba, 23-13. Tatum, who previously served as an assistant coach at his junior college alma mater for a decade (1987-97), most recently spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Garden City Community College in Kansas after 11 seasons (2000-10) as an assistant coach at Georgia Military College.
The Stephens-guided EMCC Lions have prevailed in each of the five previous gridiron meetings with Mississippi Delta by an average margin of 32.6 points per victory over the Trojans. Most recently in back-to-back Scooba meetings, East Mississippi shut out the visiting Trojans both last season (56-0) and two years ago (54-0). The most recent EMCC-MDCC contest played in Moorhead resulted in a 42-27 victory by the visitors during the 2010 campaign. In Stephens’ first two seasons at EMCC, the Lions knocked off Delta, 35-15, in Moorhead back in 2008 and prevailed in Scooba the following year by a 28-10 tally.
Along with topping the NJCAA team leaders in both scoring offense and scoring defense, EMCC presently ranks second nationally in total offense (594.7 yds/gm) and third in total defense (130.3 yds/gm). The Lions’ balanced offensive attack is generating an average of 282 yards on the ground and 312.7 yards via the air through the season’s first three contests. Defensively, EMCC’s stingy stopper unit is surrendering an average of only 70 rushing yards and just 60.3 passing yards per outing. In addition, the Lions’ high-octane offense is averaging 7.3 yards per rush and completing passes at a 66-percent clip, while their stifling defense is only allowing an average of 1.8 yards per rush and holding the opposition to just 33-percent passing on the year.
Individually, sophomore quarterback Dontreal Pruitt, from Laurel, currently rates among the NJCAA’s Top 5 statistical leaders in passing yards per game (288.3 yds/gm), pass completion percentage (65.9%) and touchdown passes (13). On the receiving end, 11 different EMCC players have multiple catches on the young season with seven of those having hauled in scoring passes. Sophomore pass-catchers Brandon Bell (Heritage Academy) and Antoinne Adkins (Meridian HS) lead the way with 11 and 10 receptions, respectively.
On the ground for the Lions, West Point product Lakenderic Thomas leads the squad with a team-high 256 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Olive Branch’s Todd Mays and Starkville’s Preston Baker follow close behind with 213 and 197 rushing yards, respectively.
As a defensive unit through three games, the EMCC Lions have been credited with 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (10 sacks) along with recording 11 takeaways (6 INTs & 5 fumble recoveries).
EMCC’s football games this season are being 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. EMCC’s 2013 football radio broadcasts are also being 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) are available in HD by accessing EMCC’s athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com. Alternate audio streams of the weekly radio broadcasts are also available at www.wfcafm108.com.