SCOOBA – The fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College parlayed eight consecutive first-half possessions into touchdowns along with a third straight dominating defensive effort into a commanding 69-0 non-division shutout victory over visiting Southwest Mississippi Community College Thursday evening at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.
On the heels of their 59-0 home shutout win over East Central during Week 2 and a season-opening 49-6 triumph at Pearl River, head coach Buddy Stephens' 3-0 EMCC Lions have now out-scored the opposition by a composite total of 177-6 this season. The 69 points registered against the Bears trailed only the school-record, 75-point regulation effort posted in EMCC's four-point win over visiting Mississippi Gulf Coast during the 2009 MACJC state championship game played in Scooba.
With all eight of their first-half offensive possessions taking 2:06 or less of clock time, including five drives under a minute in duration, the Lions mounted an eye-popping 55-0 halftime lead on the strength of 28 and 27 first- and second-quarter points, respectively. Producing touchdowns in 10 of the team's first 11 offensive possessions stretching late into the third quarter, EMCC only failed to score touchdowns on its final drive of the opening half heading into intermission as well as during its final two drives of the contest with a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball, East Mississippi's stout stopper unit limited its second consecutive opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense after holding East Central to just 88 total yards a week ago. In posting 11 scoreless quarters defensively through their first three games of the year, the Lions have now recorded five shutouts over the last 10 games dating back to last year's 8-2 campaign.
EMCC's first three touchdowns – scoring strikes from sophomore quarterback Dontreal Pruitt to three different receivers in Brandon Bell (11 yards), Todd Mays (26) and Preston Baker (8) – took less than four minutes total and only 13 plays collectively. Pruitt, from Laurel High School, took it in himself from 6 yards out at the 3:29 mark to make the score 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Southwest's biggest scoring threat of the game came midway through the opening period on a drive that was prolonged by a special teams miscue and an EMCC horse-collar tackle penalty. However, the Lions bowed up defensively and forced four consecutive incomplete passes from the 24-yard line.
Meanwhile, Pruitt took to the air for three more scores during the first seven minutes of the second quarter. Following a 46-yard scoring pass to former Laurel teammate Justin Mack at the 13:43 mark, Pruitt then found Baker and Bell for their second touchdown connections of the game from 37 and 27 yards out, respectively.
Sophomore running back Lakenderic Thomas finished off the first-half scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run with three minutes left to extend the insurmountable advantage to 55-0 by the halftime break. Coming off his 90-yard, four-touchdown rushing effort last week against East Central, the West Point High School product hit the century mark for rushing yards in the opening half versus Southwest en route to a career-high 117 yards on 10 carries.
Also posting significant halftime numbers, Pruitt connected on 19-of-24 first-half passes for 303 yards and six touchdowns through the air heading into intermission. Adding another touchdown pass early in the second half to go along with his first-half touchdown run, Pruitt accounted for 402 yards of total offense – 310 passing (22-of-28) and 92 rushing (8 carries) – in the contest and broke the single-game school standard by accounting for eight touchdowns. His seven touchdown aerials matched the single-game EMCC mark established previously by former Ole Miss standout Randall Mackey (in 2009) and current Rebel starting quarterback Bo Wallace (in 2011).
Following Pruitt's 4-yard scoring toss to Antoinne Adkins early in the third quarter, Mays stretched the advantage to the final margin of 69-0 with a 14-yard run into the end zone with 1:57 remaining in the period.
As a team, the Lions put up a balanced 690 yards of total offense with 352 rushing yards and three scores on the ground along with 338 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air. With 10 different receivers hauling in passes on the night, Bell and Adkins led the way with five catches apiece.
Defensively, EMCC caused and recovered three fumbles during the lop-sided victory along with forcing three-and-out situations on seven of Southwest's 12 offensive possessions. The Lions were also credited with 11 defensive plays behind the line of scrimmage.
On special teams, EMCC kicker/punter Drew White connected on nine of the 10 extra-point attempts in the contest, though his season-opening string of successful PAT tries ended at 19 after he missed following the Lions' fifth touchdown against Southwest. For the second straight game, the freshman from Tupelo did not attempt a punt.
Having concluded their regular-season slate against MACJC South Division opponents, the EMCC Lions now begin defense of their back-to-back MACJC North Division titles by traveling to Moorhead to take on the Trojans of Mississippi Delta Community College Thursday, Sept. 19. With composite records of 47-10 overall and 27-3 in division play under Stephens' guidance, East Mississippi has claimed division crowns during four of the five previous seasons.