Set to defend their second NJCAA National Championship in three years, the preseason No. 1-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off their 2014 football slate Thursday evening by traveling to Summit to meet the Bears of Southwest Mississippi Community College. Game time for EMCC’s season opener is set for 7 p.m. at John I. Hurst Stadium/Monroe McElveen Field.
With a 32-2 collective mark over the last three years, including undefeated (12-0) seasons both last fall and previously in 2011, the EMCC Lions enter the current campaign sporting a 56-10 (.848 winning percentage) composite record under seventh-year head football coach Buddy Stephens. East Mississippi is tied for fourth nationally among the NJCAA’s winningest football programs dating back to 2008.
A year ago following their previous 8-2 campaign, the Lions rebounded from their consecutive one-point setbacks to Itawamba and Copiah-Lincoln in closing out 2012 by going unbeaten for the second time in three seasons. Along with claiming a second NJCAA National Championship, last year’s EMCC squad also captured a third MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 title in five years along with a fifth MACJC North Division regular-season crown since 2008.
Included in last year’s undefeated season was a 69-0 home triumph over Southwest Mississippi during the third week of the 2013 campaign. Coupled with their 59-6 road win over the SMCC Bears during Week 3 of the 2012 season, the Lions have outscored Southwest by a combined score of 128-6 over the past two years.
Last season (Sept. 12) in Scooba, the home-standing EMCC Lions scored touchdowns on their first eight first-half possessions en route to posting an insurmountable 55-0 halftime advantage over Southwest. For the game, EMCC put up a balanced 690 yards of total offense against the Bears, including a Buddy Stephens era-record 352 rushing yards. Led by NJCAA All-American and current Troy University quarterback Dontreal Pruitt, the Lions were also 26-of-34 through the air for 338 passing yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, the Lions limited SMCC to just 89 yards of total offense (49 rush/40 pass) to post their second of three straight early-season shutout wins.
Two years ago (Sept. 13) in Summit, the visiting Lions jumped out to a 38-0 lead by the intermission en route to amassing a Stephens era-record 786 yards of total offense. EMCC totaled 464 yards passing and 322 rushing yards on offense, while holding the Bears to just 17 yards rushing on 21 attempts.
Following this week’s season opener, the EMCC Lions will kick off their five-game home regular-season slate next Thursday (Sept. 4) by playing host to preseason third-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College on the Scooba campus. With next week’s kickoff against Co-Lin set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field, the Lions will be looking to avenge their lone home loss in 18 decisions since EMCC’s new football stadium opened in 2011. Two years ago in Scooba, EMCC’s 2012 season came to an abrupt end with a last-second 47-46 setback to the visiting Co-Lin Wolfpack in the semifinals of the MACJC State Playoffs.
Again this season, EMCC’s football games 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 2014 football radio broadcasts are also slated to be carried live by SuperTalk Mississippi (WZKR-FM 103.3) and WMOX-AM (1010) out of Meridian.
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.