SCOOBA – Having secured their sixth MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 football championship in nine years, the top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College (10-1) will bid for their fourth NJCAA national title in seven years during Sunday's NJCAA Football Championship Game/Mississippi Bowl X against No. 2 Arizona Western College (9-0). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at A.L. May Memorial Stadium on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston.
Sunday's national championship game pitting the EMCC Lions and the AWC Matadors will be broadcast live on NJCAA TV, a subscription-based online service, at a charge of $4.99. Fans can watch NJCAA TV online at www.njcaatv.com as well as through NJCAA TV-dedicated streaming apps/channels on Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku. Fans can also download the NJCAA TV mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.
The national title game will also be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Glen Beard and Jonathan Holmes calling the action. The radio broadcast will also be carried by EMCC's campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
Additional information on Sunday's Mississippi Bowl X national championship matchup between No. 1 EMCC and No. 2 Arizona Western can be found online at www.mississippibowl.com. Available for purchase through the bowl game's website, tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students. A limited number of chairback tickets in the home grandstand (EMCC side) are available for $20.
This weekend's trip to Mississippi's Gulf Coast will mark EMCC's fifth appearance in the Mississippi Bowl since the MGCCC-hosted bowl game kicked off in 2008. A year ago in Perkinston, third-ranked East Mississippi claimed a 27-17 win over No. 13 Kilgore College. Prior to that, the Lions captured back-to-back NJCAA national championships at the 2013 and 2014 events played previously at Biloxi Indian Stadium. The 2013 EMCC squad beat top-ranked Georgia Military College, 52-32, and followed the next year with a 34-17 triumph over No. 2 Iowa Western College. The 2009 Lions, led by NJCAA All-America quarterback Randall Mackey, earned a 27-24 win over Arizona Western in Mississippi Bowl II.
The more recent of the two previous EMCC-AWC gridiron meetings resulted in a 55-47 East Mississippi victory over the then-No. 1 Matadors during the 2011 El Toro Bowl played in Yuma, Ariz. Keyed by another NJCAA All-American Bo Wallace, who has returned to EMCC as quarterbacks coach, that win marked the Lions' first of three national titles earned during a four-year span (2011-14).
Coach Buddy Stephens' 2017 EMCC Lions enter Sunday's Mississippi Bowl with a 10-1 overall record after claiming their sixth state championship since 2009 with a thrilling 67-66 double-overtime road win over then-No. 4 Northwest Mississippi, Nov. 11, in Senatobia. Prior to that, East Mississippi earned a 24-20 road victory at then-No. 6 Jones County in the MACJC state semifinals after closing out the regular season with a 51-41 road triumph over then-No. 7 Hinds.
As the school's all-time leader in career wins with a 10-year head coaching mark of 97-13 (.882) and ranked as the NJCAA's all-time leader in career winning percentage for coaches with 100 or more career games coached, EMCC's Stephens owns a 17-3 career record during postseason competition. Under his leadership, the Lions are 5-0 in NJCAA bowl games (3-0 in national championship games) and 12-3 in MACJC playoff contests (6-0 in state championship contests).
With recent NJCAA football titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014, East Mississippi is bidding to become the first Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) member school to claim four national championships. Currently, Northwest Mississippi (1982, 1992 & 2015) and Mississippi Gulf Coast (1971, 1984 & 2007) also have three national titles to their credit. Butler (KS) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M presently share the all-time national record with six NJCAA football championships apiece.
Likewise in his 10th season as head football coach at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Tom Minnick's Matadors concluded the regular season undefeated for the second straight year. Also finishing as the nation's second-ranked team in the final regular-season NJCAA Top 20 poll for the second consecutive season, AWC most recently closed out the regular season on Nov. 11 with a 66-14 win over Scottsdale to claim a second straight Western States Football League title. The Mats began the current season ranked as the nation's No. 1 team (ahead of No. 2 EMCC) after falling to Garden City Community College, 25-22, during last year's NJCAA Football Championship Game.
Statistically behind the standout play of LSU transfer quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr., the EMCC Lions are currently ranked second nationally in scoring offense with an average of just under 50 points per game. They also stand third among the NJCAA team leaders in passing yards (311.3 yds/gm), second with 40 rushing touchdowns and fourth in total offense (516.6 yds/gm).
Represented on their roster by 23 different states as well as the District of Columbia and Canada, the Matadors of Arizona Western are ranked seventh nationally in allowing an average of just 17.0 points per contest. AWC is also rated ninth in scoring offense (41.0 ppg), sixth in rushing yards (275.7 yds/gm) and seventh in total offense (474.7 yds/gm).