SCOOBA – Preseason No. 1-ranked East Mississippi Community College successfully began defense of its fourth national championship with a dominating 50-0 home shutout victory over preseason 13th-ranked Hinds Community College during Thursday's MACJC season-opening contest played at Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.
While piling up 423 yards of total offense in the opening half of play and holding the visiting Eagles under the century mark for the contest, the Lions registered their 21st shutout of the Buddy Stephens era. The season-opening triumph also gave EMCC's 11th-year head coach his 99th career coaching victory.
EMCC's opening quarter of the new campaign resulted in 23 points with Michigan State transfer quarterback Messiah deWeaver at the controls. The Lions efficiently marched 72 yards on 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Notre Dame transfer Deon McIntosh's 8-yard scoring run at the 10:17 mark.
East Mississippi's vaunted defensive unit made an immediate impact during Hinds' first two possessions. Following a pair of runs halted at the line of scrimmage and an incomplete pass, the Eagles took a safety when a snapped punt sailed out of bounds. After EMCC took the ensuing possession 59 yards on five plays that resulted in deWeaver's 21-yard scoring strike to Rashad Eades at the 6:56 mark, Josh Miller's interception of Tylan Morton's pass put the home team back in business. Seven plays later, the Lions went up 23-0 when deWeaver found Kalem Reddix from 17 yards out with 4:13 remaining in the opening period.
EMCC's 20-point second quarter began in similar fashion as McIntosh put the finishing touches on an 11-play, 73-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring burst at the 11:37 mark for his second of three touchdown runs on the evening.
Following a missed 30-yard field goal attempt by EMCC freshman Josh Smith, the Lions' defense set up another score when Keilos Swinney picked off Morton's pass. On a fourth-and-15 play from the 25-yard line, deWeaver connected with Dontario Drummond at the left front pylon to increase the margin to 37-0 with 5:22 left in the first half.
After forcing another Hinds punt with the opening half winding down, EMCC marched 86 yards on nine plays in a little over two minutes – aided by a roughing the kicker penalty called on the Eagles – to reach the MACJC's 38-point mercy rule margin. Reddix and deWeaver connected from 18 yards out with 42 seconds left on the clock to extend the lead to 43-0 heading into intermission.
In the first half alone, deWeaver completed 25-of-38 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns while connecting with a dozen different receivers. The Dayton, Ohio native also picked up 39 net yards on the ground in 10 attempts.
While playing the entire third and fourth quarters with a running clock, the fast-paced second half featured one final score when McIntosh capped the night with his third touchdown on a 2-yard run with just over a minute remaining in the contest. Hailing from Pompano Beach, Fla., McIntosh finished his EMCC debut with 84 rushing yards and the three scores on 15 carries.
For the game, East Mississippi generated 559 yards of total offense with 405 coming through the air and an additional 154 yards gained on the ground. Leading the Lions' talent-laden receiving corps was Reddix with seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. McIntosh along with fellow running back Keon Moore and sophomore receiver Adrian Miller all followed with four grabs apiece.
With EMCC's Stephens going for career win No. 100, the Lions will encounter their first road test of the 2018 campaign by traveling to Poplarville to meet the Pearl River Wildcats on Thursday (Sept. 6). Kickoff at PRCC's Dobie Holden Stadium is set for 6 p.m.