SCOOBA – In their first of back-to-back road outings coming against first-time opponents during the Buddy Stephens era, the top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College travel to Decatur to meet East Central Community College Thursday evening. Kickoff for the non-division football contest is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bailey Stadium on the East Central campus.
Having most recently played both East Central and Southwest Mississippi - EMCC's road opponent next week - during the 2007 campaign, the Lions will be looking for their first football victory over the Warriors since claiming a 12-7 triumph in Decatur back in 1998 under the guidance of former head coach Tom Goode. East Central has claimed the last six gridiron meetings in this long-standing traditional 'Scooba-Decatur' rivalry with the Lions, including a 31-20 road victory over EMCC five years ago in the 2007 season opener played in Scooba. The most recent Decatur matchup resulted in a 24-21 win by the home team during the 2006 season opener.
Maintaining their No. 1 preseason ranking by capturing seven of the nine first-place votes in this week's NJCAA Top 20 football poll, Stephens' EMCC Lions kicked off the new season with a 35-15 home triumph over Pearl River Community College this past Saturday afternoon in Scooba. On the heels of last year's school-first NJCAA National Championship season, East Mississippi presently owns winning streaks of 13 consecutive games overall as well as in regular-season play dating back to 2010.
In Saturday's season-opening win over the Pearl River Wildcats, EMCC freshman quarterback Quez Johnson, of Starkville, threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns while sophomore running back Rodriguez Moore (Bastrop, LA) registered his seventh career 100-yard rushing effort with 112 yards on 15 carries, including a 39-yard touchdown scamper. Six different Lion pass-catchers were on the receiving end of Johnson's 16 completed aerials, highlighted by sophomore transfer Corey Smith (Akron, OH) with his 110 receiving yards on five grabs, including a 60-yard touchdown connection.
With a solid start offensively this past weekend, much of EMCC's season-opening success can be attributed to the stellar play of the Lions' veteran defensive unit. Starting nine sophomores defensively, East Mississippi forced five Pearl River turnovers with two key fumble recoveries and three timely interceptions late in the contest to secure the 20-point victory.
Special teams also played a key role in EMCC's Week 1 win over PRCC, as freshman wide receiver LeDarious Clark has received Special Teams Player of the Week honors both nationally from the NJCAA as well as in-state from MACJC/jucoweekly.org after returning a pair of kickoffs for a total of 132 yards. The former Southeast Lauderdale High School two-sport standout ran back his second kickoff return 74 yards to help set up the Lions' go-ahead touchdown late in the first half.
Guided by fourth-year head coach and former Mississippi State offensive lineman Brian Anderson, the Warriors of East Central Community College dropped a 35-13 home decision to Itawamba this past Saturday in their season opener. ECCC was 2-7 overall last year and 1-5 in MACJC South Division play. A season ago, the Warriors knocked off Itawamba, 24-17, during Week 3 and finished off 2011 with a 41-28 division win over Southwest Mississippi.
Thursday's road opener in Decatur will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM radio (107.9), 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. In addition, the live video-streamed broadcast is scheduled to be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-football and can be accessed through EMCC's athletics website - http://athletics.eastms.edu. An alternate audio stream of the radio broadcast will also be available by logging onto www.wfcafm108.com.