|EMCC Lions secure playoff berth with 38-14 home win over Holmes in stadium finale|
SCOOBA – Closing out one of the greatest regular-season turnarounds in school history, the Lions of East Mississippi earned an opportunity to defend their state football championship by virtue of a 38-14 home triumph over Holmes Thursday night on the Scooba campus. The successful evening also had some sentimental value with EMCC playing its final home football game on the present site of the original Sullivan-Windham Field.
Bouncing back from a 0-3 start to the campaign by winning five of their last six regular-season contests, head coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC Lions entered the Holmes contest in fourth place in the MACJC’s North Division standings. With second-place Itawamba falling, 31-14, at fourth-ranked and North champion Northwest Mississippi and third-place Northeast Mississippi dropping a 23-3 home decision to 12th-ranked and South-leading Copiah-Lincoln on Thursday night, EMCC, ICC and Northeast all finished the regular season with identical records of 5-4 overall and 4-2 in division play. Having also tied in head-to-head meetings between the three teams, the Lions benefitted from having the better point differential of the three tied teams against the other four common divisional opponents (Northwest Mississippi, Coahoma, Mississippi Delta & Holmes) to claim the deciding tiebreaker.
Now 24-7 overall in the three seasons under Stephens’ guidance, second-seeded East Mississippi is set to make its third straight appearance in the MACJC state playoffs one week from Saturday (Nov. 6) against the South Division’s No. 1 seed to be determined this Saturday. In the South, Co-Lin finished the regular season at 8-1 overall and 5-1 in division play, while Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pearl River – currently tied for second with 4-1 division marks – both play on Saturday against Hinds and Jones County, respectively. The state championship game will be played Saturday, Nov. 13.
Thursday in Scooba, EMCC capitalized on a botched fake field goal and a couple of Holmes fumbles caused by Lion freshman defensive end Denico Autry (Albemarle, N.C.) in the first half to erase an early 7-3 deficit. The visiting Bulldogs answered Taylor Walker’s game-opening, 39-yard field goal with a 2-yard scoring toss from quarterback W.J. McAllister to running back Joseph Thurmon early in the second quarter.
After a somewhat sluggish start, the Lions’ offense began to get going late in the opening half with two scores within a minute of one another. Following a three-and-out Holmes possession, Henderson found sophomore running back Floyd Graves on a flare pass and the former Newton County standout smashed through a few goal-line defenders to complete a 34-yard, catch-and-run scoring pass with 1:16 remaining in the half. On the next play from scrimmage, Autry forced his second of three fumbles on the night, stripping McAllister of the ball that was recovered by sophomore Cleveland Shelton on the 31-yard line. One play later, Henderson hit Meridian’s Hamp Glover all alone in the right corner of the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 28 ticks left until intermission.
With their defense holding Holmes to a pair of three-and-out possessions and forcing a third fumble in the third quarter, the Lions maintained their offensive intensity with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. Henderson first connected with sophomore back Trayshun King of Columbia on a 24-yard swing pass for a score down the left side of the field at the 7:53 mark. EMCC then took advantage of the Holmes miscue later in the period, as Henderson scrambled out of trouble to locate Rodney Davis (Millbrook, Ala.) on a 38-yard scoring strike with 3:04 remaining in the quarter. On the heels of last week’s 10-catch, 190-yard receiving effort at Mississippi Delta, Davis tops EMCC pass-catchers with six touchdown grabs on the year.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the last period to account for the final 38-14 outcome. The Lions’ last score of the game was directed by backup signal-caller and former Noxubee County product Termarcus Conner, who followed a perfect 31-yard pass play over the middle to freshman receiver De’Joshua Johnson (Pahokee, Fla.) with a 49-yard touchdown aerial down the left side to fellow frosh Lacoltan Bester of Kemper County. Walker, a former Northwest Rankin product, nailed his fifth straight point-after-touchdown try of the night to end the scoring with 4:56 left in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Following his NJCAA Co-Offensive Player of the Week performance a week ago at Mississippi Delta, Henderson was 26-of-38 through the air against Holmes for 357 yards and four touchdowns. The former Starkville High School product has now thrown 25 touchdowns on the season, including 20 in his last five outings. Henderson connected with 10 different receivers on the night.
Defensively, the Lions limited Holmes to 253 yards of total offense on 61 plays. Along with his three forced fumbles, Autry was credited with 13 total tackles on nine solos and four assists, including three tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Donnelli Johnson, formerly of East Oktibbeha High School, also had 13 total stops (8 solos & 5 assists), including a 4-yard tackle for loss.
With the Lions scheduled to move into their new 5,000-seat football facility on the west side of campus next season, EMCC’s original Sullivan-Windham Field dates back to the 1948 football campaign. As a tribute to the 63 years of football action on the school’s present football playing site, East Mississippi coaches lined the field Thursday night with traditional markings dating back to the legendary coaching days of Hall of Famer Bob “Bull” Sullivan. EMCC officials also took part in a post-game field dedication following the 24-point victory over Holmes.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 29 October 2010 )|
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