SCOOBA – The top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College kick off the back half of their regular-season schedule when No. 15 Holmes Community College visits the Scooba campus for Thursday's key MACJC North Division football matchup. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field.
Having extended their overall winning streak to 16 consecutive games with their 27th straight victory in regular-season division play during last week's 45-7 road win over Mississippi Delta, the EMCC Lions are 5-0 overall and 3-0 within the division on the year. The reigning MACJC state champions will also bring a 26-game overall home win string into Thursday's contest against the Holmes Bulldogs.
A week ago in Moorhead, EMCC compiled a season-high 630 yards of balanced total offense (349 pass/281 rush) while scoring six offensive touchdowns for the fifth time in as many games this season. With four more rushing touchdowns in the Delta game, including a pair of scoring runs by national leader Tyrell Price, the Lions rank third nationally with 20 scores via the ground. Price, who ripped off a 70-yard scoring jaunt against the Trojans, enters this week's action with an NJCAA-best 11 rushing touchdowns on the year.
On the heels of Lindsey Scott Jr.'s 310-yard night through the air on 25-of-35 passing at Mississippi Delta, EMCC ranks fifth nationally with an average of 294.0 passing yards per contest for the season. Scott, an LSU transfer and former Gatorade Player of the Year from Zachary, La., also rates fifth among the NJCAA's statistical leaders with his 65.4 pass completion percentage.
Featuring six receivers with double-digit catches through the year's first five games, the Lions had 11 different players catch at least one pass a week ago for the second time this season (Northeast was the other game). On the year, Texas A&M/Oregon transfer Kirk Merritt paces EMCC's talent-laden receiving corps with 25 receptions for 379 yards. Meridian's Daniel Crowell Jr. is next with 14 grabs, while Georgia Southern transfer Mike Williams has averaged 26.5 yards on 11 catches, including touchdown receptions of 84 and 71 yards.
Guided by seventh-year head coach Jeff Koonz, the 4-1 Holmes Bulldogs fell from No. 3 nationally in the NJCAA Top 20 to 15th this week after dropping a 33-13 home decision to now-No. 11 Northwest Mississippi last Thursday in Goodman. Currently ranked atop the national team statistical leaders in rushing yards per game (388.2 yds/gm) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (19), Holmes opened the current campaign with consecutive wins over East Central (49-14), Southwest Mississippi (67-34), Mississippi Delta (29-0) and Coahoma (30-20). Individually for the Bulldogs, Cameryn Brent ranks as the NJCAA's fourth-leading rusher on the year with a state-best average of 147.4 yards per game while also tying for fourth nationally with nine rushing touchdowns.
Currently sporting a 10-year head coaching record of 92-12 (.885) overall as the school's all-time wins leader and the NJCAA's all-time leader in career winning percentage for coaches with 100 or more career games coached, EMCC's Stephens also owns career coaching marks of 47-6 (.887) at home and 54-3 (.947) in regular-season division play. In addition, he is 9-0 all-time versus Holmes, including road wins over the Bulldogs both last season (63-49) and the year prior (44-28). Last year's EMCC-Holmes contest marked the second-most combined points scored (112) in an EMCC game during the Stephens era behind only the 146 total points scored during the Lions' memorable 75-71 regulation victory over Mississippi Gulf Coast in the 2009 MACJC state championship game played at the previous site of Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus. Most recently in Scooba (Oct. 9, 2014), EMCC shut out Holmes, 49-0, for the third straight year in the head-to-head series.
Thursday's EMCC-Holmes contest 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. EMCC's 2017 football radio broadcasts will also be carried live by SuperTalk Mississippi (WZKR-FM 103.3) out of Meridian as well as through EMCC's campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
In addition, EMCC's weekly live video-streamed football broadcasts 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.