SCOOBA – Second-ranked East Mississippi Community College's quest for a seventh consecutive MACJC North Division regular-season football title begins Thursday evening at Northeast Mississippi Community College. Kickoff for the division opener at Tiger Stadium in Booneville is set for 6:30 p.m.
With eight division championships (2008-09, '11-16) in his nine full seasons at the Lions helm, 10th-year EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens owns a 51-3 career regular-season mark against MACJC North Division opponents dating back to the 2008 season. The Lions have prevailed in 24 consecutive division contests since dropping a 24-23 decision at Itawamba to close out the 2012 regular-season campaign.
Entering Week 3 sporting a 13-game overall winning streak, including last year's 11-1 state championship season, the EMCC Lions opened the current campaign with home wins over a pair of MACJC South Division opponents. Following a season-opening 47-34 home victory over Jones County, in which Stephens surpassed Hall of Famer Bob "Bull" Sullivan in becoming East Mississippi's career wins leader, EMCC most recently cruised to a 49-10 triumph over Mississippi Gulf Coast a week ago in Scooba.
This past week against Gulf Coast, the Lions mounted a 35-3 halftime advantage in compiling nearly 400 first-half yards of total offense en route to the 39-point, mercy-rule win over the Bulldogs. Individually for EMCC, sophomore running back Tyrell Price rushed for a career-high 111 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries. LSU transfer quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. was 14-of-21 through the air for 279 passing yards, including an 84-yard touchdown pass to Georgia Southern transfer receiver Mike Williams. Fellow transfer receiver Kirk Merritt, from Texas A&M via Oregon, had a team-high five catches for 69 yards versus MGCCC.
Defensively a week ago, EMCC held Gulf Coast to less than three yards per carry (123 rushing yards) after the Bulldogs ran for 412 yards the week prior against Itawamba. In addition to the Lions being credited with 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage against MGCCC, including five quarterback sacks, EMCC sophomore defenders Quin Jones (29 yards for TD) and Ty Williams (23 yds) also had pass interceptions in the victory.
On the season, EMCC's Scott ranks second nationally with an average of 354 passing yards per game, while Price is tied with Cisco's Jemaree Yelton atop the nation's leaders with five rushing touchdowns apiece for the year. Through the first two games, the Lions have also had 11 different receivers catch passes. Defensively as a team, EMCC has been credited with 18 tackles for loss, including eight sacks, and three pass interceptions.
Guided by third-year head football coach Greg Davis, the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi are 0-2 on the young season following a pair of tough losses. After falling during the final minute of a 27-21 setback at Pearl River to open the season, Northeast dropped a 27-20 double-overtime home decision to East Central this past week in Booneville. The Tigers were listed ninth nationally in the NJCAA's preseason rankings.
EMCC's Stephens has recorded an 8-1 career mark against Northeast Mississippi, including a current string of six straight victories versus the Tigers. Dating back to the 2011 season, the Lions own three series wins over Northeast in Scooba, including last year's 54-10 home triumph (Sept. 15), as well as three victories in Booneville. Two years ago (Sept. 17, 2015) at Tiger Stadium, EMCC claimed a 56-7 road win over Northeast. Prior to that, the Lions prevailed over the Tigers during consecutive Scooba meetings (59-0 in 2013 & 65-7 in 2014) along with previous back-to-back road wins over Northeast in 2011 (63-35) and 2012 (49-0).
Since taking over EMCC's head coaching duties in December 2007, Stephens has posted an overall career record of 89-12 for an all-time, NJCAA-best .881 winning percentage among junior college coaches with 100 or more career games coached. In addition, the Lions are 65-4 overall (.942) during the six-plus years dating back to the start of the 2011 season.
Thursday's EMCC-Northeast 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.