SCOOBA – On the heels of last week's milestone win over Jones County, the second-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College continue their season-opening home stand by playing host to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Thursday evening on the Scooba campus. Kickoff for the MACJC inter-divisional contest is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field.
A week ago against JCJC, the EMCC Lions overcame a two-touchdown, second-half deficit by scoring the game's final 26 points to secure a 47-34 home victory over the visiting Bobcats and enable 10th-year head coach Buddy Stephens to surpass Hall of Fame football coach Bob "Bull" Sullivan in becoming East Mississippi's all-time leader in career wins. Along with improving his career head coaching mark to 88-12 (.880 win pct.) while coaching in his 100th career EMCC game, Stephens also ascended to the top of the NJCAA's all-time career winning percentage chart among football coaches with at least 100 career games coached.
Thursday's EMCC-MGCCC matchup will feature two common postseason opponents of late going head to head on the gridiron. The Lions and Bulldogs have met in the MACJC state semifinals three times in the last four years (all games played in Scooba) with the home team coming out on top each time. A year ago, EMCC claimed a narrow 27-24 home playoff win (Nov. 5) over Gulf Coast after earning a 45-7 road victory over the Bulldogs during Week 2 (Sept. 8) in Perkinston.
Last week with LSU transfer quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. under center for the Lions in his collegiate debut, EMCC amassed 601 yards of total offense with 429 yards through the air and 172 on the ground. The state of Louisiana's 2015 Gatorade Player of the Year out of Zachary was 25-of-42 passing against Jones County with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Scott's top target on the night was fellow Louisiana native Kirk Merritt, who caught seven passes for 180 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown reception. The former Texas A&M and Oregon transfer also ran for a score and had an 82-yard punt return for an apparent touchdown called back due to an offside penalty. Scott also rushed for 62 yards on 15 attempts, while sophomore running back Tyrell Price, out of Lafayette High School, led the way for EMCC with 70 rushing yards on 14 carries, including a touchdown.
Defensively a week ago, the Lions had seven different players credited with tackles for loss, including quarterback sacks by Southern Miss transfer Lorenzo Dantzler (Starkville), sophomore Tyone Clemons (West Jones HS) and freshman Eriq Kitchen (South Panola HS). Fellow freshman Joseph Anderson, from Puckett High School, also had a 37-yard interception return in his collegiate debut.
On special teams during Week 1, EMCC sophomore kicker Taylor Crabtree collected MACJC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after scoring nine points on 6-of-6 point-after-touchdown attempts and a 24-yard field goal against Jones County. The Vancleave High School product also averaged 37.0 yards on four punts, including a 62-yarder, as well as handling second-half kickoff duties for the Lions.
Also 1-0 on the young season after holding on for a 42-41 home victory over Itawamba last Thursday, the MGCCC Bulldogs are guided by fourth-year head coach Chad Huff, who spent 10 seasons as Gulf Coast's offensive coordinator before being promoted in December 2013. A week ago against ICC, Mississippi Gulf Coast rushed for 412 yards as a team, including 189 yards and four touchdowns by MACJC Offensive Player of the Week Deandre Torrey in addition to 186 yards and two scores from quarterback Torrance Gibson. The Bulldogs were 5-5 overall last year after posting consecutive eight-win seasons during Huff's first two years (2014 & 2015) at the MGCCC helm.
EMCC's Stephens owns an 8-2 career record against Mississippi Gulf Coast since taking over the school's head coaching duties in December 2007. The Lions have knocked off MGCCC in postseason play during each of the five years they've captured the MACJC state championship dating back to the 2009 campaign. Along with home playoff wins over Gulf Coast during the state semifinals last year as well as in 2014 (42-21) and 2013 (45-28), East Mississippi also knocked off the visiting Bulldogs in Scooba during state championship action in both 2011 (42-17) and 2009 (75-71).
Along with entering Thursday's contest with a 12-game overall winning streak dating back to last year's Week 2 victory at Mississippi Gulf Coast, East Mississippi also owns a 24-game home win string spanning back to the start of the 2013 season. Additionally, the Lions are collectively 64-4 overall, including a 34-1 composite home record, dating back to the 2011 campaign when EMCC's new Sullivan-Windham Field opened.
Thursday's EMCC-MGCCC contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Charlie Winfield slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, and Glen Beard set to serve as the Lions' sideline reporter. EMCC's 2017 football radio broadcasts will also be carried live by SuperTalk Mississippi (WZKR-FM 103.3) out of Meridian as well as through EMCC's campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
In addition, EMCC's weekly live video-streamed football broadcasts will be available in HD at www.EMCCAthletics.com/live. Alternate audio streams of the radio broadcasts are also available at www.wfca.fm. Fans are also encouraged to follow EMCC Athletics through the college's athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@EMCCAthletics) via the school's social media hub at www.EMCCAthletics.com/Social-Media-Hub.