MOORHEAD – Transfer quarterback John Franklin III accounted for six touchdowns and nearly 300 yards of total offense in one half of play to propel the third-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College to a 48-0 road victory over Mississippi Delta Community College during Thursday's abbreviated regular-season finale played at Jim Randall Field.
The EMCC-MDCC contest was suspended by MACJC game officials with just under a minute remaining in the first half of play after an on-field altercation broke out between members of the participating teams. Due to the NJCAA's ejection policy reprimanding players for leaving the bench area during an altercation, both EMCC and Delta will serve a two-game suspension that will carry over into next season. In the Lions' case, they will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming MACJC State Playoffs set to begin on Saturday, Oct. 31.
Having secured their seventh MACJC North Division title in eight seasons, head coach Buddy Stephens' three-time NJCAA Champion EMCC Lions officially conclude the regular season with an 8-1 overall record and 6-0 division mark, according to NJCAA guidelines. On the state level, however, the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges retroactively granted East Mississippi a win by forfeit when Copiah-Lincoln Community College was ruled to have played an ineligible student-athlete during the team's 31-24 overtime home win over the Lions on Sept. 3.
On the playing field this past Thursday in Moorhead, Franklin III scored on runs of 13, 5, 29, 33 and 65 yards against Mississippi Delta while also connecting with Dario Robinson on a 12-yard touchdown pass. The Florida State University transfer amassed 291 yards of total offense on 10-of-16 passing for 119 yards along with 172 rushing yards on 10 carries. Freshman running back Jacquez Horsley, a former Starkville High School standout, scored EMCC's other touchdown on a 1-yard burst late in the first quarter.
On the receiving end for East Mississippi, freshman Brooks Shannon, of North Pontotoc High School, grabbed a team-most three catches for 55 total yards in the Delta game. Sophomore Desmond Goss (Louisville HS) and freshman Isaiah Wright (Florence HS) each had two receptions for the visiting Lions.
Defensively in their regular-season finale, the Lions limited MDCC to only 68 yards of total offense, including just 11 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Freshman safety Dontavius Powell, a Charleston High School product, set up EMCC's third score of the contest with a 25-yard interception return of a Gregory Conley pass attempt. Freshman defensive lineman Marquise Griffin, from Leake Central High School, was credited with a team-high six tackles against the Trojans.
EMCC President Dr. Thomas M. Huebner Jr. on football team's MACJC playoff disqualification:
Late in the second quarter of Thursday night's game against Mississippi Delta Community College, a physical altercation erupted between the two teams. As a result, the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges has suspended the entire EMCC Lions football team for two games. These consist of what would have been a semi-final playoff game against East Central Community College on Oct. 31 and, for returning players, the first game of the 2016 football season. Gone also is the possibility of playing in this year's NJCAA championship game. We are currently considering all our options for appealing this decision. At EMCC, a football field is a place where young men learn leadership, teamwork and responsibility. Our commitment to those core beliefs remains strong today. We ask the EMCC family to keep us in their thoughts and prayers as we navigate this difficult time. We believe our football players, like all our students, have unlimited potential and we're proud of every single one. Go Lions.
MACJC Commissioner Jim Southward on EMCC's disqualification from MACJC football playoffs:
Based upon the altercation Thursday night between East Mississippi CC and Mississippi Delta CC, EMCC will not be eligible to participate in the MACJC football playoffs. Both schools will have to adhere to the NJCAA ejection policy which states "mandatory ejection and removal from the venue for any bench personnel other than the head coach who leaves the bench or designated warm up area when a fight may break out or has broken out. A two-contest suspension is to be served during the next two regularly scheduled or postseason contests. Suspension of a coach or player at the end of a season of play shall carry over to the next season."