SCOOBA – The reigning national champion and top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College scored seven different ways during a 47-point opening half on the way to claiming a 54-13 home victory over Mississippi Delta Community College during Thursday's MACJC North Division contest played at Sullivan-Windham Field.
After a game-opening Delta drive came up empty in the red zone following a big loss on a bad snap from center, EMCC proceeded to cash in with a 37-yard made field goal by Josh Smith at the 8:30 mark of the opening quarter. For the next three minutes on the game clock, the Lions managed to build on their lead without an offensive possession while their defense and special teams provided a needed spark.
First, freshman Shavoke Herrington intercepted Tyrique McAfee's tipped pass over the shoulder and raced 62 yards for the pick six to give the Lions a 10-0 lead with 6:50 remaining in the quarter. EMCC's special teams then stepped up when Braden Boykin's fifth career blocked punt was carried seven yards into the end zone by Adrian Miller at the 5:19 mark to make it 17-0.
Following a three and out forced by EMCC's stopper squad, sophomore quarterback Vijay Miller led the home team on a 12-play, 64-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jason Brownlee at the start of the second quarter. The acrobatic catch falling out of bounds by the former West Point High School standout and resulting point-after-touchdown kick by Smith increased the margin to 24-0.
Exactly two minutes later at the 12:54 mark on the heels of another three and out by Delta, EMCC's DJ Clayton collected Lane McGregor's punt and bolted 44 yards behind a wall of blockers down the right sideline for another special teams score to extend the advantage to 31-0.
East Mississippi's bid for a possible second shutout on the year was thwarted when MDCC's McAfee escaped multiple Lion defenders before finding Dejhon Polk in the end zone from 26 yards out to put the Trojans on the scoreboard with 9:23 left in the opening half of play.
The Lions responded by finding other ways to score en route to posting a 30-point second quarter and mounting a commanding 47-6 halftime advantage. EMCC's lone rushing touchdown of the night was a 5-yard burst by Notre Dame transfer running back Deon McIntosh, whose NJCAA-leading eighth rushing score of the year capped a 10-play, 62-yard drive that pushed the score to 38-6 with 2:21 left.
With the first half winding down, the opportunistic Lions took advantage of another bad snap from center by Delta that resulted in a 27-yard loss and a subsequent safety when Michigan State transfer Lashawn Paulino-Bell tackled running back Patrick Jackson in the end zone. Following Clayton's ensuing 34-yard kickoff return, EMCC's Miller and Julian Conner connected on back-to-back passes of 31 and 10 yards to reach the end zone with 20 seconds left and put the MACJC's mandated 38-point mercy rule into effect beginning with the start of the second half.
The Trojans benefitted from an EMCC fumble coming out of the half when McAfee found Marquise McCoy for a 65-yard catch and run down the right sideline to put the visitors back on the board with 10:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The Lions quickly responded on their next possession by capping a four-play, 60-yard drive with a 35-yard touchdown toss from Miller to Dontario Drummond down the left sideline with nine minutes left in the period. Drummond's sixth touchdown reception of the year and 16th of his EMCC career rounded out the game's scoring with a running clock being utilized for the remaining 24 minutes of the contest.
Offensively for EMCC, sophomores Miller and Messiah deWeaver, a Michigan State transfer, were both 12-of-17 through the air for 172 and 119 yards passing, respectively, while combining to connect with 10 different receivers on the night. Miller threw for three touchdowns. Their top receiver was Drummond with seven catches for 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, the Lions were powered by the tandem of Keon Moore (59 yds) and McIntosh (57 yds), who combined for 116 rushing yards on just 12 carries between them.
Winners of 78 of their last 83 games over the last eight seasons, 11th-year head coach Buddy Stephens' 4-0 EMCC Lions will step out of MACJC North Division play for the third and final time this regular season on Thursday (Sept. 27) by taking on the 20th-ranked and 3-1 Warriors of East Central Community College. Kickoff in Decatur is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bailey Stadium on the ECCC campus. The game will mark the first gridiron meeting between the two schools located just 55 miles apart since the 2013 campaign.