BOONEVILLE – In their initial road appearance of the season, the second-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College kicked off MACJC North Division play with a dominating 59-0 shutout performance over home-standing Northeast Mississippi Community College Thursday evening at Tiger Stadium.
On the way to registering their 20th shutout of the Buddy Stephens coaching era, the EMCC Lions jumped out to a commanding 35-0 lead 16 minutes into the contest before the Tigers could manage to record their initial first down of the game. The visitors proceeded to outgain Northeast 374-91 in total offense yards and 23-4 in first downs for the game en route to claiming their 25th consecutive regular-season division win dating back to the start of the 2013 campaign.
The Lions began their road opener by putting together a pair of 12-play scoring drives that consumed less than four minutes apiece. They first drove 74 yards in 3:23 to take a quick 7-0 lead on Tyrell Price's 18-yard touchdown run at the 11:37 mark. Following Northeast's first of eight three-and-outs on the night, EMCC made it 14-0 six minutes later by capping a 62-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring swing pass from LSU transfer quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. to sophomore Ja'Mori Mark.
EMCC's special teams play then made a major impact by accounting for two of the game's next three scores. First, freshman Braden Boykin blocked Beau Lee's punt while Marshall University transfer Brandon Rodgers then scampered into the end zone with the Lions' third touchdown of the evening. As the opening quarter drew to a close, Scott's game-long, 36-yard completion to Georgia Southern transfer receiver Mike Williams was quickly followed by Mark's 5-yard cutback scoring run that extended the margin to 28 points.
On the heels of another three-and-out forced by EMCC's stout defense, the Lions opened the second quarter by taking advantage of another special teams opportunity. Transfer receiver Kirk Merritt ran back Lee's punt 58 yards for the score to lengthen the Lions' insurmountable lead to 35-0 just one minute into the period. Midway through the quarter on Taylor Crabtree's 29-yard field goal at the 8:05 mark, the visitors reached the MACJC's mandated 38-point, mercy-rule differential that would be utilized throughout the second half of play.
Playing with a running clock following intermission, the Lions benefitted from another special teams highlight to set up their sixth touchdown of the game. After former Kemper County High School standout DJ Clayton's 62-yard punt return gave EMCC great field position to begin the second half, Price followed a 4-yard run with a 10-yard touchdown scamper for his team-leading seventh score of the season. The Lafayette High School product, who finished with 80 yards on 11 carries in the game, had four rushing touchdowns during last week's 49-10 home win over Mississippi Gulf Coast.
As East Mississippi's defense continued to keep the Tigers on their own side of midfield throughout the contest, the Lions stayed on the ground with two more rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Early in the period, former Ole Miss signee Justin Connor capped a six-play, 55-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 52-0. EMCC then closed out the night's scoring by marching 65 yards on 11 plays, as freshman running back Reginald Hunter Jr. ran for 52 of those yards on eight carries, including a 1-yard scoring burst with 4:15 remaining to account for the game's final margin.
Connecting with 11 different receivers during the evening, EMCC's Scott was 19-of-26 passing for 174 yards. Meridian's Daniel Crowell Jr. was his top target with six catches for 48 yards.
Defensively, the Lions held Northeast Mississippi to just 91 yards of total offense and only four first downs on the night. The Tigers were limited to 40 rushing yards on 28 attempts while going 8-of-15 through the air for only 51 passing yards.
Winners of 14 consecutive games dating back to last year's 11-1 state championship season, the 3-0 EMCC Lions will return home to play host to the Indians of Itawamba Community College on Thursday (Sept. 21). Kickoff at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field is set for 7 p.m. on the Scooba campus.