SCOOBA – In their final non-division football action of the regular season, the top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will venture to Summit to take on Southwest Mississippi Community College Thursday evening. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Monroe McElveen Field in John I. Hurst Stadium.
For the second straight week on the road, the Lions are set to face a first-time opponent during the Buddy Stephens coaching era. EMCC and Southwest Mississippi last battled on the gridiron during the 2007 campaign, with the Bears claiming a 12-7 advantage in Summit. The year prior in Scooba, Southwest earned a 22-20 road victory over the Lions. East Mississippi's most recent football victory over the Bears came during the 2001 season in Summit by a 10-7 final.
Having received eight of the nine first-place votes in this week's NJCAA Top 20 national poll, the 2-0 EMCC Lions extended both their overall winning streak and regular-season win string to 14 consecutive games after breezing to a 51-7 road victory over East Central Community College last Thursday in Decatur. After winning their final three regular-season games of 2010 and going undefeated (12-0) for the first time in school history during last year's NJCAA national championship season, the Lions opened the current campaign with a 35-15 home triumph over Pearl River Community College on Sept. 1.
Though maintaining their potent offensive attack through the air as well as on the ground, it has been the Lions' defensive prowess that has received most of the early-season headlines for the reigning MACJC state champions. Through the year's first two non-division victories over Pearl River and East Central, EMCC has forced a combined total of nine turnovers. A week ago in their 44-point win at East Central, the Lions limited the home-standing Warriors to just 183 yards of total offense for the game – 103 rushing and 80 passing – while forcing four ECCC turnovers in the opening half alone.
Offensively, EMCC's balanced attack is averaging 463 yards of total offense (284 passing/179 rushing) through the first two contests with freshman quarterback Quez Johnson, of Starkville, at the controls. Johnson's primary receiving targets thus far have been Grand Rapids CC transfer Corey Smith (9 catches for 178 yards and 2 TDs) and Starkville's Billy Shed (8 catches for 93 yards and 2 TDs). SEC transfers Nick Brassell, from Ole Miss via South Panola High School, and Martay Mattox, from the University of South Carolina by way of Athens, Ga., follow with seven and six receptions, respectively.
EMCC's ground game remains formidable in 2012 with the return of running back Rodriguez Moore, who ranked fourth nationally among the NJCAA's statistical leaders with 1,303 rushing yards a year ago. As a sophomore, the Bastrop, La., native is averaging 91.5 rushing yards through the Lions' first two games, including his seventh career 100-yard rushing outing (112 yards on 15 carries) coming in EMCC's season-opening home win over Pearl River.
Guided by seventh-year head coach Charles Anthony, the Bears of Southwest Mississippi Community College are 0-1 on the young season after dropping a 22-10 decision at Itawamba Community College last Thursday. SMCC's scheduled season opener against Northwest Mississippi CC, originally set for Aug. 30 in Summit, was cancelled due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac. A year ago, Southwest Mississippi was 3-6 overall and 1-5 against MACJC South Division competition.
Thursday's EMCC-SMCC contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM radio (www.wfcafm108.com), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard set to describe the play-by-play action and John Lyle Briggs serving as the Lions' sideline reporter. WFCA's broadcast of Thursday's contest is also slated to be carried live in the Meridian market on SuperTalk Mississippi 103.3 FM as well as on WLSM-FM (107.1) in Louisville. Post-game highlights and interviews will also be available Friday via EMCC's YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/emccathletics, which can also be accessed through EMCC's school website, www.eastms.edu, and Facebook pages.
With three MACJC North Division regular-season titles over the past four years and a composite 22-2 division record (38-8 overall) under Stephens' guidance, the EMCC Lions are slated to begin division play next Thursday (Sept. 20) by playing host to Mississippi Delta Community College. Kickoff for East Mississippi's 2012 MACJC North Division opener is set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.