|East Mississippi moves up four spots to No. 4 in NJCAA poll; Lions open homestand Thursday vs. ICC|
EMCC’s home stand will kick off with Thursday’s 7 p.m. contest against MACJC North Division rival Itawamba at the New Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.SCOOBA – With three quality wins in hand to begin the season, the unbeaten Lions of East Mississippi Community College will open their upcoming two-game home stand with a No. 4 national ranking in the current NJCAA football poll.
Head coach Buddy Stephens’ 3-0 EMCC Lions moved up four notches to No. 4 in the current NJCAA poll after knocking off their second nationally ranked top five opponent of the young season with last Thursday’s 45-42 road triumph over then-No. 4 Northwest Mississippi. After ushering in the school’s new football stadium with their 34-30 home win over reigning state champion and preseason second-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast on Sept. 1, the Lions followed the next week with a 20-17 road victory over Hinds, which last week shut out then-No. 20 Copiah-Lincoln in Wesson and has thus received votes in this week’s poll.
EMCC’s current No. 4 rating marks the Lions’ highest national ranking in football since concluding their state championship 2009 campaign with a school-best 11-1 record and No. 4 ranking. The 2009 EMCC squad was ranked as high as second nationally early in the season en route to claiming a school-first MACJC state football championship and earning a subsequent Mississippi Bowl victory over Arizona Western.
This week’s NJCAA football poll remained unchanged at the top with Navarro College and Blinn College from the state of Texas occupying the No. 1 and 2 positions, respectively. Arizona Western again held down the third spot, and Iowa Western climbed a notch to No. 5. Following its narrow home loss to EMCC last week, Northwest Mississippi fell to a ninth-place tie with Trinity Valley CC. MACJC South Division foes Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pearl River settled in at No. 13 and 15, respectively, while Northeast Mississippi entered the Top 20 poll at No. 19 on the strength of a 3-0 start to the year.
For the fourth straight year under Stephens’ leadership, the EMCC Lions again rate high among the nation’s team statistical leaders on the offensive side of the ball, entering this week’s action ranked second in passing offense with an average of 353 passing yards per game and seventh nationally with 469 yards of total offense an outing. Triggering the Lions’ potent passing attack is freshman quarterback Bo Wallace (Pulaski, Tenn.), who stands second nationally in passing offense as well as total offense with per-game averages of 353 and 364.3 yards, respectively.
With Wallace having completed passes to 10 different receivers on the year, the Lions’ leading pass-catcher through three games is sophomore Lacoltan Bester from nearby Kemper County High School. The Scooba native tops a quintet of double-digit EMCC receivers with a team-high 18 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow sophomores Hamp Glover and JJ Harbin, former Meridian High School teammates, follow with 16 and 11 receptions, respectively.
Protected by a sophomore-laden offensive line, EMCC’s running game to this point has been spearheaded by freshman back Rodriguez Moore. The Bastrop, La., native is ranked 11th nationally with an average of 103.7 rushing yards per contest, highlighted by his 202-yard ground performance at Hinds two weeks ago.
Defensively, All-America candidate Denico Autry continues to make headlines for East Mississippi, leading the Lions with 33 total tackles on the year, including a 17-yard sack and four other tackles for loss, as well as 19 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. In the secondary, freshman Shaquille Fluker, of Meridian, has been credited with 32 total stops, including a team-most 23 solo tackles, while West Point’s Jeremy Cannon has 20 tackles for the season along with a pair of fumble recoveries for 122 total yards and a 21-yard interception return. Fellow West Point native Justin Cox, a freshman safety, remains among the national leaders with his three interceptions that all came in the Lions’ season-opening win over Gulf Coast.
East Mississippi’s three victories this season have been decided by a collective total of only 10 points, with a pair of three-point wins and a four-point triumph. The last time EMCC opened a football season with four straight wins came in 1974 when former head coach Bill Buckner’s Lions were 5-0 to start the year on the way to an 8-2 campaign.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 September 2011 )|
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