|SCOOBA – Bidding to clinch their fourth MACJC North Division football title in five years, the third-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College (7-0, 4-0) play host to No. 5 Northwest Mississippi Community College (6-0, 5-0) Thursday evening on the Scooba campus. With the winner earning the division’s top seed in next month’s MACJC State Playoffs, kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
The third-ranked EMCC Lions look to secure their fourth MACJC North Division football title in five years by playing host to No. 5 Northwest Mississippi Thursday evening on the Scooba campus. Kickoff for the battle of Top 5 MACJC football powers is slated for 7 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field.
Winners of 19 consecutive games dating back to last year’s unbeaten (12-0) NJCAA national championship season, head coach Buddy Stephens’ EMCC Lions are 7-0 overall this season and 4-0 within division play. Three of the four division victories have come via the shutout route with recent shutout efforts over Northeast Mississippi (49-0) last week, Holmes (35-0) the week prior and Mississippi Delta (56-0) on Sept. 20.
Still securing four of the nine first-place votes in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 national poll, the EMCC Lions inched up a spot to No. 3 with 180 voting points to trail only No. 2 Butler [KS] Community College (184.5 pts) and top-ranked Iowa Western Community College (203 pts). This week’s NJCAA Top 5 is rounded out by Arizona Western College (179 pts) at No. 4 and Northwest Mississippi CC (172.5 pts) at the fifth spot.
Out-scoring their 2012 opponents by an average margin of 41.1 points per game on the year, the unbeaten Lions have only allowed 45 total points defensively in seven outings for an average of just over a touchdown (6.4 ppg) surrendered per game. Five times this season East Mississippi has scored more points in a single game than the opposition has managed to collectively score against the Lions in seven contests on the year. In addition, the Lions have held their opponents scoreless in 22 of the 28 quarters played this season, including a current defensive streak of 10 consecutive scoreless quarters spanning back to the second half of the Coahoma game on Sept. 27.
Offensively, the EMCC Lions are averaging 515.9 yards of total offense and 47.6 points scored per contest for the season. Triggered by former Starkville High School product Quez Johnson at quarterback, EMCC’s balanced offensive scheme is producing an average of 282.6 passing yards with 25 touchdowns through the air in addition to averaging 233.3 rushing yards with 20 scores on the ground. Averaging 90 rushing yards an outing with nine rushing scores as a sophomore, Rodriguez Moore (Bastrop, LA) paces a quartet of Lion running backs all averaging better than five yards per carry. With 32 catches for 536 yards and six touchdowns, sophomore transfer Corey Smith (Grand Rapids [MI] CC/Akron, OH) headlines a stellar EMCC receiving corps featuring six players with double-digit grabs on the year.
Guided by fifth-year head coach Ricky Woods, the Rangers of Northwest Mississippi Community College are 6-0 overall on the season and 5-0 in MACJC North Division action. Within the division, NWCC has knocked off Coahoma (44-6), Itawamba (49-7) and Holmes (32-20) at home while winning on the road over Northeast Mississippi (19-13) and Mississippi Delta (41-13). Having had their scheduled season opener at Southwest Mississippi cancelled due to Hurricane Isaac, the Rangers will close out the regular season a week from Saturday (Oct. 27) by entertaining 18th-ranked Jones County during homecoming festivities in Senatobia.
In four tightly contested battles between these MACJC North Division gridiron rivals, East Mississippi has prevailed in three of the four previous meetings with Northwest Mississippi going back to the first season (2008) for the respective fifth-year head coaches at their current schools. With the previous four matchups having been decided by an average margin of just six points per meeting, the visiting Lions, ranked eighth nationally at the time, claimed a critical 45-42 victory over fourth-ranked NWCC last year in Senatobia during the third game of the season. Two years ago, the Rangers came into Scooba and snapped EMCC’s 15-game division win streak with a 25-19 road triumph over the Lions. The 2010 setback marked EMCC’s first division loss under Stephens’ watch.
Thursday’s key division contest in Scooba will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM radio (www.wfcafm108.com), 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. WFCA’s broadcast of Thursday’s contest is also slated to be carried live in the Meridian market on SuperTalk Mississippi 103.3 FM. The live video-streamed broadcast will also be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-football and can be accessed through EMCC’s athletics website - http://athletics.eastms.edu. In addition, post-game highlights and interviews will be available Friday via EMCC’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/emccathletics, which can also be accessed through EMCC’s school website, www.eastms.edu, and Facebook pages.
Now 43-8 overall (.843) and 26-2 (.929) in MACJC North Division play under Stephens’ leadership, the Lions of East Mississippi will close out the 2012 regular season one week from Saturday (Oct. 27) by traveling to Fulton to meet the Itawamba Indians in a 4 p.m. homecoming contest on the ICC campus. The 2012 MACJC State Playoffs will begin the following Saturday (Nov. 3) with the two division champions hosting semifinal-round games against second-seeded, non-division opponents. The MACJC State Championship Game will be played a week later on Saturday, Nov. 10.