SCOOBA – Back at home after consecutive non-division road triumphs, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College begin MACJC North Division football action Thursday evening by playing host to Mississippi Delta Community College. Kickoff for EMCC's division opener is slated for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.
Despite having received eight of the nine first-place votes for the second straight week, the EMCC Lions fell from atop the NJCAA Top 20 National Poll to fourth in this week's rankings with the debut of the NJCAA Football Computer Rankings. This week marked the first time the NJCAA football poll included the FCR, which is worth 33 percent of the poll with the other 67 percent coming from the human voters.
On the heels of an impressive Top 10 home win over division foe Hinds Community College a week ago, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College swapped places with EMCC at the top of this week's national poll with 187.5 ranking points. Sandwiched between last year's MACJC State Championship Game combatants in the current NJCAA poll are second-ranked Iowa Western Community College (185 pts) and No. 3-rated Butler (KS) Community College (182 pts). EMCC totaled 175 ranking points. Also representing the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) among nationally ranked teams in this week's NJCAA poll are No. 6 Northwest Mississippi, 12th-ranked Itawamba and Hinds at No. 16.
In other national junior college football polls this week, which include the talent-laden California community colleges, East Mississippi Community College remained the nation's top-ranked team in the JC Grid-Wire National Top 25. The Lions have also ascended to the top of this week's JCGridiron.com Dirty 30 Rankings on the strength of their 3-0 start.
Now 39-8 overall and 22-2 in division play under fifth-year head football coach Buddy Stephens, the EMCC Lions have kicked off defense of their 2011 NJCAA National Championship season with non-division victories over Pearl River (35-15), East Central (51-7) and Southwest Mississippi (59-6) this month. Keyed by a defense that has shut out the opposition in eight of the 12 quarters played thus far, East Mississippi has outscored its three opponents on the year by a composite margin of 145-28, including 110-13 in the team's most recent road wins over ECCC and SMCC.
Offensively, the EMCC Lions are coming off a week in which they compiled 786 yards of total offense (464 passing & 322 rushing) against Southwest Mississippi to establish a new single-game school standard for total offense under Stephens' guidance. Individually for their standout performances a week ago, freshman quarterback Quez Johnson and freshman placekicker Morgan Rhodes were tabbed MACJC/jucoweekly.org Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively. Johnson, of Starkville, is averaging nearly 300 yards per game through the air, with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while having completed 58 percent (59-of-101) of his passes on the year. Rhodes, a product of Northwest Rankin High School, leads EMCC in scoring with 25 points through three games on 19-of-20 PAT attempts and 2-of-3 field-goal tries.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Todd Lott, the Trojans of Mississippi Delta Community College are still looking for their first victory of the season. Following setbacks to Hinds (42-21) and Pearl River (44-29) to open the season, MDCC most recently dropped a 39-9 home decision to Itawamba last week in Moorhead.
In the recent series history between these two teams, East Mississippi has beaten Mississippi Delta each of the last four years since Stephens' arrival on the Scooba scene by an average margin of 26.8 points per victory. Most recently, the Lions shut out visiting MDCC, 54-0, during EMCC's homecoming contest a year ago. Previously, EMCC prevailed in Moorhead during the 2010 (42-27) and 2008 (35-15) seasons as well as in Scooba in 2009 (28-10). Prior to Stephens' hiring at EMCC, the Lions had dropped nine straight decisions to Mississippi Delta dating back to the 1999 campaign.
Thursday's division opener between EMCC and Delta 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. The live video-streamed broadcast will 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.