Aiming for their third state football title in five years, the second-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College are set to entertain the fourth-ranked Jones County Junior College Bobcats in the 2013 MACJC State Championship Game to be played Saturday afternoon on the Scooba campus. Kickoff for the top-five national showdown is slated for 2 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
With national championship implications, the winner of Saturday’s state championship contest will earn an automatic invitation to participate in Mississippi Bowl VI on Sunday, Dec. 8 at Biloxi Indian Stadium.
Having won 30 of their last 32 games dating back to their unbeaten (12-0) NJCAA National Championship season in 2011, this year’s undefeated EMCC Lions squad most recently earned a 45-28 home triumph over fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast during last week’s MACJC State Semifinals contested in Scooba. The 9-1 JCJC Bobcats advanced to Saturday’s championship contest against EMCC by claiming a 49-21 home victory over Itawamba a week ago in their semifinal-round matchup.
Winners of the MACJC state football championship during prior odd-numbered years in 2011 and 2009 with previous title game victories over Mississippi Gulf Coast both years, the EMCC Lions are now 54-10 overall and 5-3 in state playoff games under the guidance of sixth-year head football coach Buddy Stephens. All but one of East Mississippi’s state playoff games dating back to 2008 (48-21 semifinal-round loss at Copiah-Lincoln in 2010) have been played on the Scooba campus.
A year ago in Scooba, the Lions dropped a heartbreaking, last-second 47-46 decision to eventual state champion Copiah-Lincoln in the MACJC State Semifinals. The year prior during EMCC’s first season at the new Sullivan-Windham Field location, the Lions knocked off Hinds (55-24) and Gulf Coast (42-17) to claim their second state championship in three years en route to besting then-No. 1 Arizona Western, 55-47, in the 2011 NJCAA National Championship Game (El Toro Bowl) played in Yuma, Ariz.
Continuing to lead the NJCAA in both scoring offense (63.4 ppg) and scoring defense (6.1 ppg) on the year, East Mississippi is the only junior college team nationally to average 50 or more points per game on offense. The Lions also own the distinction of being the lone NJCAA team to have limited their 2013 opposition to an average of less than 10 points per outing defensively. For the season, EMCC has scored 69 points or better four times while also posting five shutout victories among their 10 wins.
In addition to topping the NJCAA in points scored (634) and touchdowns (89), EMCC’s offensive unit leads the nation in total offense with an average of 619.7 yards per game. With NJCAA All-American candidate Dontreal Pruitt running EMCC’s potent offensive attack, the Lions are tied for the NJCAA team lead with 42 passing touchdowns and ranked second nationally with 38 rushing touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, East Mississippi has been credited with an NJCAA-leading 54 sacks and stands second nationally with 25 pass interceptions for the year. With six defensive touchdowns in 10 games, including five pick-six pass interceptions, 11 different EMCC defenders have picked off passes this season.
Guided by coaching veteran Ray Perkins, Jones County is 9-1 on the season and regular-season champions of the MACJC’s South Division. After jumping out to a 6-0 start on the year, JCJC’s lone setback was a 24-20 home division loss to Hinds back on Oct. 10. With 13 state football titles to their credit through the years, the Bobcats are seeking their first MACJC gridiron crown since 2001. In the school’s most recent state title game appearance in 2007, Jones County dropped a 20-17 decision to eventual co-national champion Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Saturday’s state title bout between the Lions and Bobcats will mark the first football meeting between the two schools since Stephens’ 2009 EMCC squad claimed a 26-16 home win over Jones County during the MACJC State Semifinals played at the previous Sullivan-Windham Field site on the Scooba campus. East Mississippi went on to defeat Mississippi Gulf Coast, 75-71 in regulation, in the memorable 2009 championship game to earn the school’s first-ever state football title.
In prior regular-season EMCC-JCJC gridiron battles, the home-standing Lions posted a 28-17 victory over Jones County during Week 2 in 2009. The year prior in Stephens’ second game as East Mississippi’s head football coach (and first road contest), the host Bobcats pinned the lone regular-season loss on the 2008 EMCC squad with a 23-19 decision in Ellisville.
Saturday’s state championship contest will be broadcast live by WMXU-FM (106.1), out of Starkville, 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.