GOODMAN – Another offensive clinic by second-ranked East Mississippi Community College combined with a fourth shutout in six wins this season lifted the visiting Lions to a 55-0 victory over Holmes Community College in MACJC North Division football action Thursday evening at Ras Branch Field.
Highlighted by freshman quarterback/running back Todd Mays scoring four rushing touchdowns and adding a two-point conversion run, the road triumph marked career win No. 50 for sixth-year EMCC head football coach Buddy Stephens. Now 50-10 under Stephens' guidance, the Lions are also 30-3 in regular-season division play dating back to the 2008 campaign.
Thursday's contest at Holmes began with an impressive 16-play, 68-yard scoring drive by the visitors that was capped by Mays' 3-yard burst up the middle. Drew White's point-after-touchdown attempt was blocked to keep the score at 6-0.
The Lions' one-score opening period of play was followed by EMCC's most prolific scoring quarter of the Stephens era. After putting up 28 points in a single quarter on eight different prior occasions dating back to the school's 2011 NJCAA national championship season, EMCC's 29-point second quarter against Holmes consisted of another Mays scoring run, two touchdown passes from quarterback Dontreal Pruitt, a third punt return for a touchdown by EMCC on the year, and Mays' successful two-point conversion.
Following rare back-to-back, non-scoring possessions by the Lions to close out the opening quarter, the visitors began the second period with a pinpoint, 45-yard pass play from Pruitt to freshman wide receiver C.J. Bates into double coverage down the right sideline. Two plays later, Mays hit pay dirt for the second time on the night with a 4-yard scoring run.
With EMCC's stingy defensive unit forcing five consecutive three-and-out possessions by the Bulldogs in the opening half of play, Pruitt took to the air for the Lions' next two scores on subsequent six-play drives. Five minutes into the second quarter, the former Laurel High School standout connected with Lakenderic Thomas coming out of the backfield, who bulled his way into the end zone for a 15-yard scoring play. Thomas, out of West Point High School, became the 10th different receiver to score a touchdown for EMCC this season.
Three minutes later, Pruitt found Meridian's Antoinne Adkins over the middle for an 18-yard scoring connection. Mays, an Arkansas State transfer out of Olive Branch High School, made it 28-0 by running in the two-point conversion.
With the opening half winding down, the Lions' special teams contingent made up for a fumbled reception on the previous possession to post their fifth touchdown of the half. Following a fifth straight three-and-out by Holmes, Bates returned the ensuing punt 59 yards for a touchdown to close out the first-half scoring. The Louisville High School product previously had a 62-yard punt return for a score in EMCC's 49-6, season-opening win at Pearl River.
Having now outscored their 2013 opposition by a staggering 392-13 margin on the year, including a 253-0 discrepancy in first-half action, the Lions stayed on the ground for their final three scores of the evening. Mays, who tied Thomas for game honors with 65 rushing yards, capped his 26-point performance by adding touchdown runs of four and three yards to complete scoring drives of nine and 10 plays in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Freshman running back Preston Baker, of Starkville, closed out the game's scoring with a 1-yard TD plunge, which was set up by sophomore safety Byerson Cockrell's second pass interception in as many games.
Pruitt, ranked among the NJCAA's top five statistical leaders in every passing category, finished with 26-of-37 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. For the season, the sophomore signal caller has thrown for 23 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Sophomore receiver Brandon Bell, of Columbus' Heritage Academy, was Pruitt's top target with seven receptions for 53 yards on the night. Bates and freshman Brandon Acker, from Hattiesburg, followed with five catches apiece for 87 and 71 yards, respectively.
Defensively for the game in recording their fourth shutout of the year and seventh whitewashing over the last 13 contests dating back to last season, the Lions allowed Holmes just 69 yards of total offense – 21 rushing and 48 passing – for the game. Marking the fewest yards allowed in a game by a Stephens-coached EMCC team, the Lions have now held three different opponents to less than 100 yards of total offense this season.
Topping the nation in both the JCGridiron.com and JCFootball.com team rankings, the two-time reigning MACJC North Division Champion EMCC Lions (6-0, 3-0) return home to continue division play by welcoming the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi Community College on Thursday, Oct. 10. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.