SUMMIT – The top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College amassed 786 yards of total offense Thursday night in cruising to a 59-6 MACJC non-division football victory over Southwest Mississippi Community College on Monroe McElveen Field at John I. Hurst Stadium.
With 464 yards passing and 322 rushing yards on the evening, the EMCC Lions established a single-game school standard for most yards of total offense during the Buddy Stephens coaching era (2008 to present). The previous mark stood at 714 yards compiled in the team's 56-35 victory at Holmes during last year's NJCAA national championship season.
En route to posting their 10th outing with 50 or more points in a single game over the last four-plus seasons, the Lions scored on their first two possessions against Southwest. EMCC's lone touchdown on the ground opened the scoring, as sophomore running back Rodriguez Moore went in from two yards out with 12:29 left in the first quarter. Less than three minutes later, it took the visitors just three plays to go on top 14-0 when freshman quarterback Quez Johnson hit receiver Martay Mattox with a 49-yard touchdown strike over the middle at the 9:36 mark.
East Mississippi came away with points during all four of its second-quarter possessions. First, Johnson and Mattox paired up for the second of three scoring connections on the night when EMCC's freshman signal-caller found the University of South Carolina transfer with a 29-yard scoring aerial with 12:24 remaining in the half. The Lions then took advantage of a Southwest fumble on the next series with placekicker Morgan Rhodes booting a 22-yard field goal three minutes later to make the score 24-0.
The visitors tacked on two additional touchdowns over the final four minutes of the opening half to move ahead 38-0 by the intermission. The Johnson-to-Mattox connection struck for a third time as the tandem hooked up on a 42-yard quick scoring hit down the right hash mark with 3:23 left. Following a three-and-out possession by the home-standing Bears, Johnson eyed sophomore transfer receiver Corey Smith, who took the lofted pass down the left sideline, broke a tackle and made his way into the end zone from 61 yards out to cap the first-half scoring with only 23.8 seconds remaining on the game clock.
The Lions' offense continued to click following the break by hitting pay dirt on their first three drives of the second half. Capping a penalty-riddled opening drive of the half, Johnson found Smith on a 5-yard slant pass at the 8:13 mark for their second scoring connection of the game and fourth of the season. As Southwest was subsequently mounting a drive and approaching the red zone, freshman Byerson Cockrell's team-leading second interception of the year set up EMCC's next score later in the quarter. With freshman quarterback Dontreal Pruitt at the controls in relief of Johnson, the former Laurel High School standout hit Tray Tarleton with a 9-yard scoring toss to make it 52-0 with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded scores in the final period. EMCC freshman running back Lakenderic Thomas, of West Point, stretched the Lions' string of unanswered points to 59 by taking an aerial from Pruitt and plowing into the end zone for an 11-yard score at the 13:46 mark. Rhodes, from Northwest Rankin High School, proved true on his eighth consecutive point-after-touchdown attempt to go along with his earlier field goal on the night.
For the second straight week, EMCC's dominant defensive squad just missed out on recording a well-deserved shutout victory during the game's final quarter. Southwest running back Laderick Turner grabbed a short pass from quarterback Turner Easterbrook and darted 37 yards breaking tackles and dragging an EMCC defender into the end zone for the home team's lone score with 7:57 remaining in the contest. Kicker Paul Johnson's PAT attempt was blocked to account for the 59-6 final, as the Lions ran out the remaining game clock by staying with their running game.
Through the season's first three contests, East Mississippi's standout stopper unit has allowed just 28 total points on the year, including a total of eight shutout quarters.
The Lions' potent offensive attack was again triggered by Johnson, who threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns on 20-of-27 passing while playing the first half and only the initial series of the second half. Pruitt picked up where the Starkville product left off by going 6-of-7 through the air for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Once again, EMCC's quick-strike game plan utilized multiple pass-catchers with 10 different players on the receiving end of Lion aerials. Smith, a transfer from Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College by way of Akron, Ohio, led the way with seven receptions for 158 yards and two scores. Fellow transfer Mattox, of Athens, Ga., followed with six grabs for 154 yards and three touchdowns.
On the ground for the Lions, Moore, of Bastrop, La., notched his eighth collegiate 100-yard rushing effort by collecting 101 yards on a dozen attempts, including his fourth rushing touchdown of the campaign.
Having extended their overall winning streak to 15 consecutive games dating back to last year's national championship (12-0) season, the 3-0 EMCC Lions now turn their collective attention to the MACJC North Division part of their 2012 slate. A composite 39-8 overall record and 22-2 mark in division play dating back to 2008 under Stephens' guidance, East Mississippi returns home to welcome the Trojans of Mississippi Delta Community College on Thursday, Sept. 20. Kickoff for EMCC's division lid-lifter is set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.