SCOOBA – Set to make their fifth postseason bowl appearance under the guidance of ninth-year head football coach Buddy Stephens, the third-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will meet the 13th-ranked Kilgore College Rangers during Sunday afternoon's Mississippi Bowl in Perkinston. The ninth bowl contest hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is slated to kick off at 2 p.m. at A.L. May Memorial Stadium on the MGCCC campus.
Making their fourth Mississippi Bowl appearance, the 10-1 EMCC Lions own a 10-game winning streak after most recently claiming a 38-30 home win over reigning national and state champion Northwest Mississippi, Nov. 12 in Scooba, to capture their fifth Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State/Region 23 Championship in eight years. The Kilgore Rangers, out of Texas, are 6-4 on the year following their 48-41 overtime setback to fourth-ranked Trinity Valley, Nov. 12 in Athens, Texas, during the championship contest of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference (SWJCFC).
Having surpassed Butler Community College this season as the NJCAA's winningest football program over the past nine years under Stephens' guidance, the EMCC Lions have compiled an 86-12 overall record and .878 winning percentage dating back to the 2008 season. During that span, East Mississippi has claimed three national championships (2011, 2013 & 2014), five MACJC state titles (2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 & 2016) and eight MACJC North Division regular-season crowns (2008-09 & 2011-16). With a six-year composite record of 62-4 (.939) spanning back to the 2011 campaign, the Lions have been ranked in 78 consecutive NJCAA Top 20 polls, including preseason and postseason rankings. Among EMCC's current streak of being ranked in 67 consecutive weekly regular-season NJCAA polls, 62 weeks have been spent in the Top 10 and 49 within the Top 5 nationally.
This year's Mississippi Bowl matchup pits a pair of nationally Top 10-ranked offenses with notable dual-threat quarterbacks. Led by Region 23 MVP and two-time NJCAA Offensive Player of the Week De'Andre Johnson, the EMCC Lions have the sixth-highest scoring offense among the junior college ranks with an average of 45.8 points per contest. The Florida State transfer has thrown 25 touchdown passes and is averaging 248.3 passing yards per game, in addition to ranking as the team's rushing leader with 750 yards and five touchdown runs. Ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense at 43.6 points per game, Kilgore College is led by Louisiana-Monroe transfer quarterback Chandler Eiland, who has accounted for 33 total touchdowns (16 passing & 17 rushing) on the year while averaging 230.1 yards an outing through the air.
Both teams also boast well-stocked backfields and possess ample depth at the receiver position. With Johnson leading the way on the ground, the Lions' running back trio comprised of sophomores Jacquez Horsley (538 yards) and Isaiah Wright (422) along with freshman Tyrell Price (331) have combined to rush for nearly 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kilgore likewise has four players with 300 or more rushing yards on the year, led by Marquis Broussard and Tyreik Gray with 859 and 678 yards, respectively. The two offensive-minded programs also each feature nine different receivers with double-digit catches for the season. The EMCC Lions are paced by sophomores Brooks Shannon (40 catches), Mario Lanier (34) and Damion Willis (31), while the tandem of Joe Lewis and Kyle McBride lead the Ranger receivers with 35 and 29 grabs, respectively.
With a perfect 4-0 head coaching record in postseason bowl competition, Stephens' EMCC Lions most recently captured back-to-back national championships with consecutive Mississippi Bowl victories over Georgia Military (52-32 in 2013) and Iowa Western (34-17 in 2014) in games played at Biloxi High School. East Mississippi also previously posted a 27-24 win over Arizona Western in the 2009 Mississippi Bowl, while the Lions then traveled to Yuma, Arizona for a rematch two years later and knocked off AWC, 55-47, at the 2011 El Toro Bowl to claim their first of three national titles earned during a four-year span.
Guided by 10th-year head coach J.J. Eckert, the 13th-ranked Rangers of Kilgore College are 6-4 on the season as runners-up to fourth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. KC owns wins over Tyler (58-51 & 50-29), New Mexico Military (28-16), Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (31-22), Cisco (67-13) and Arkansas Baptist (35-16), while having fallen to Trinity Valley twice (48-41 & 52-40), Navarro (52-45) and Blinn (52-41). In their most recent postseason bowl appearances, the Rangers dropped a 35-21 decision to East Central Community College at last year's Heart of Texas Bowl and previously lost, 47-36, to Northwest Mississippi in the 2012 Brazos Valley Bowl played at Texas A&M's Kyle Field in College Station.
Sunday's Mississippi Bowl matchup between EMCC and Kilgore will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Charlie Winfield slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, and Glen Beard set to serve as the Lions' sideline reporter. The radio broadcast will also be carried live through EMCC's campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
In addition, EMCC's live video-streamed football broadcast of Sunday's Mississippi Bowl contest will be available in HD at www.EMCCAthletics.com/live. Alternate audio streams of the radio broadcasts are also available at www.wfca.fm. Fans are also encouraged to follow EMCC Athletics through the college's athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@EMCCAthletics) via the school's social media hub at www.EMCCAthletics.com/Social-Media-Hub.