SCOOBA – At the midway point of the junior college football regular season, the third-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College welcome Coahoma Community College for Homecoming 2013 Saturday afternoon on the Scooba campus. Kickoff for the MACJC North Division contest is set for 2 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
Along with the introduction of EMCC’s 2013 Homecoming Queen and her court, halftime festivities of EMCC’s Homecoming contest against Coahoma will also feature the recognition of the school’s 2013 Alumnus of the Year recipient (James “Cubby” Harris) and Distinguished Service Award winner (Chip Wells). Also to be recognized at halftime will be EMCC’s 2013 Sports Hall of Fame induction class, consisting of Nolan Atkins, Allen Bruton, Steve Hull (posthumously), Dick McSpadden, Jim Murray, Fred Stoops, Robert Temkovits, and Dora Vaughan.
Riding a current streak of three consecutive shutout victories, head coach Buddy Stephens’ 4-0 EMCC Lions moved up two places to No. 3 nationally, behind top-ranked Navarro (TX) College and reigning NJCAA champion Iowa Western Community College at No. 2, in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 national poll. In addition, East Mississippi has ascended to the top of both the JCGridiron.com and JCFootball.com national junior college team rankings.
Having outscored their 2013 opposition by a lopsided 247-6 composite margin on the year, the Lions most recently added to their current consecutive shutout string by blanking Mississippi Delta, 70-0, last Thursday in road division action. Prior to that, EMCC posted home shutout victories over non-division foes Southwest Mississippi (69-0) and East Central (59-0). The two-time reigning MACJC North Division champions kicked off the current campaign with a 49-6 road win over Pearl River.
While topping the NJCAA team statistical leaders in scoring offense (61.8 ppg) as well as scoring defense (1.5 ppg), the Lions’ balanced offensive attack has generated 30 touchdowns (16 passing and 14 rushing) during the first four games. Led by sophomore running back Lakenderic Thomas’ seven rushing TDs on the year, four different Lion players have rushed for scores. With 10 receivers with four or more catches thus far – led by Meridian’s Antoinne Adkins and Louisville’s C.J. Bates with 16 grabs each – eight different EMCC pass-catchers have touchdown receptions through the first month of the season.
Running the show for EMCC’s quick-strike, high-octane offensive unit is sophomore quarterback Dontreal Pruitt, who is completing passes at a 68-percent clip (86-of-127) with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The former Laurel High School standout presently ranks third nationally in touchdowns thrown as well as passing yards per game (341.8 yds/gm).
East Mississippi’s statistical numbers are equally impressive on the defensive side of the football. With 15 shutout quarters on the season, including a current string of 13 straight scoreless periods, the Lions’ formidable stopper squad is allowing just 140.5 yards of total offense per outing in contrast to EMCC’s average of 601 offensive yards per game. Along with producing four defensive touchdowns for the year on three interceptions and a fumble recovery for scores, the Lions are collectively limiting their 2013 opponents to a paltry average of 1.4 yards per rush and only 36-percent passing.
Up front with 44 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season, the Lions are ranked fourth nationally with 19 sacks as a team. In the defensive secondary, EMCC’s 12 pass interceptions, including six picks last week at Mississippi Delta, rate second among the NJCAA ranks behind only the 13 interceptions registered by Rochester (NY) Community and Technical College. Individually for the Lions, Laurel’s Allen Sentimore is tied for the national lead with four pass interceptions, while A.J. Stamps, of Vicksburg, is tied for third with three picks.
Guided by head coach Freeman Horton, who also serves as the school’s athletic director, Coahoma Community College is winless in four tries this year after most recently dropping a 21-7 home decision to Pearl River last week. Prior to that, the Tigers fell at home to Northwest Mississippi (38-23) and Hinds (55-20) after opening the season with a 63-14 setback at Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Dating back to Coahoma’s entrance into the MACJC in 1976, East Mississippi has prevailed in 36 of the previous 37 gridiron meetings between the two teams, including last year’s 48-17 victory at Coahoma. The Tigers’ lone win over EMCC in the series history came by a 40-14 tally in Clarksdale during the 1994 season. The Lions’ five series wins over Coahoma during the Stephens era have come by an average margin of 34.4 points per meeting dating back to 2008.
Stephens’ EMCC Lions are 5-0 in Homecoming contests, including shutout victories over Holmes (35-0) last season and Mississippi Delta (54-0) two years ago. EMCC’s prior Homecoming wins came against Pearl River (42-36 in 2010), Northeast Mississippi (48-10 in 2009) and Coahoma (47-20 in 2008).
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.