SCOOBA – The reigning national and state champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College secured the MACJC North Division's No. 1 seed in the upcoming state playoffs with Thursday night's 47-0 home shutout victory over Coahoma Community College at Sullivan-Windham Field.
Unbeaten on the year and owners of a 13-game winning streak dating back to last season, the top-ranked EMCC Lions will close out their nine-game regular season Thursday (Oct. 25) at Northeast Mississippi with an opportunity to outright claim their ninth MACJC North Division football championship in 11 seasons under the guidance of head coach Buddy Stephens. They previously won back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009 before earning six consecutive division crowns from 2011 through 2016.
As the MACJC North's No. 1 seed for the upcoming playoffs, the Lions will play host to the MACJC South Division's No. 2 seed on Saturday, Nov. 3 in Scooba. In the other state semifinal playoff game to be played that day, the MACJC South Division champion will host the second seed out of the MACJC North. Pivotal matchups pitting current MACJC South Division co-leaders Jones and Copiah-Lincoln as well as second-place Northwest Mississippi against third-place Itawamba from the MACJC's North Division are slated for Saturday (Oct. 20) and this coming Thursday (Oct. 25) in Ellisville and Fulton, respectively. The 2018 MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 Championship Game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 10 at a site to be determined by the state semifinal outcomes.
EMCC's regular-season home finale versus Coahoma started slowly before the Lions got on the scoreboard late in the opening quarter. Michigan State transfer quarterback Messiah deWeaver capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive by connecting with Kalem Reddix on a 3-yard touchdown toss at the 3:29 mark.
Special teams play helped ignite EMCC's offense in the second quarter, as DJ Clayton picked up a key block from Untareo Johnson to race 45 yards on a punt return down the right sideline to make it 14-0 with 11:38 remaining in the second quarter. On Coahoma's subsequent possession following three consecutive tackles for negative yardage that backed up the Tigers to their own 5-yard line, punter Chasten Lamb opted to step out of the back of the end zone for a safety on fourth and long to increase the margin to 16-0 with 8:46 left in the quarter.
The Lions' kicking game got into the action on the team's next possession with freshman Josh Smith's season-long, 47-yard field goal to extend the lead to 19-0 midway through the second quarter.
Following Coahoma's failed 33-yard field goal attempt at the 2:27 mark, EMCC primarily stayed on the ground to move 80 yards on seven plays. After Deon McIntosh ripped off runs of 16 and 23 yards, deWeaver ran for his first touchdown of the season on a 29-yard keeper between the hash marks that put the Lions up 26-0 with just 1:21 left before halftime.
Coming out of the break, McIntosh upped his NJCAA-leading total for rushing touchdowns to 15 with a pair of third-quarter scores. After capping off a nine-play, 71-yard scoring drive with a 27-yard touchdown run at the 9:46 mark, he later punched it in from a yard out with 4:23 remaining in the quarter. McIntosh's second score of the evening was set up by Adrian Miller's partially blocked punt and made it a 40-0 contest to put the MACJC's mandated 38-point mercy rule into effect.
Utilizing a running clock for the final four minutes of the third quarter and during the entire fourth quarter, the Lions finished off the night's scoring when TyQuan Ulmer connected with Clayton on a 16-yard scoring strike with just under 11 minutes remaining in EMCC's regular-season home finale.
Statistically for the game, the EMCC Lions outgained Coahoma in total offense yards, 314-98, while limiting their third opponent on the year to less than 100 yards of total offense in a game. In registering the program's 22nd shutout during Stephens' 11 seasons at the EMCC helm, the Lions were credited with 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total of 91 yards lost, including nine sacks for 58 total yards lost.
Offensively for the winners, McIntosh again led the way on the ground with his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game and sixth outing of the year with multiple rushing touchdowns. The Notre Dame transfer rushed 17 times for 146 yards and two scores against Coahoma. Through the air, deWeaver was 12-of-19 passing for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Lions' leading targets on the night were again Reddix and Dontario Drummond with five and four receptions, respectively.