SCOOBA – The top-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College begin MACJC North Division football action Thursday evening by traveling to Fulton to take on the Itawamba Community College Indians. Kickoff on Military Appreciation Night at ICC's Eaton Field is set for 6:30 p.m.
Having outscored the opposition by a 109-10 margin through the first two weeks of the season, EMCC followed a 50-0 season-opening home shutout over preseason 13th-ranked Hinds with a 59-10 road triumph over Pearl River a week ago in Poplarville. Last week's victory at PRCC marked the 100th career coaching win for 11th-year EMCC head football coach Buddy Stephens, who currently stands as the nation's seventh-winningest active NJCAA head football coach as well as ranking first in all-time winning percentage (.885 w/100-13 career mark) for NJCAA football coaches with 100 or more career games coached.
Currently ranked third nationally in team scoring at 54.5 points per game and seventh with an MACJC-best 489.5 yards of total offense an outing, the EMCC Lions are averaging 333 passing yards and 156.5 rushing yards through the year's first two contests. On the ground, the reigning national and state champions are tied for sixth among the NJCAA ranks with eight rushing touchdowns as a team. Defensively, the Lions are tied for second nationally in scoring defense (5.0 ppg) and also rated second (behind Lackawanna) among NJCAA schools in allowing an average of only 138.5 yards of total offense per game (34.5 rush yds/gm & 104 pass yds/gm). EMCC is also tied for 10th nationally with a state-most five pass interceptions on the year.
Individually for EMCC, Notre Dame transfer running back Deon McIntosh is tied for the national lead with five rushing touchdowns and ranks 16th among the NJCAA's rushing leaders with an average of 90.5 yards per game. With sophomore quarterbacks Messiah deWeaver and Vijay Miller exchanging MACJC Offensive Player of the Week honors during the first two weeks, the tandem has combined to connect with 14 different receivers this season. Leading the way thus far on the receiving end has been Kalem Reddix with a dozen receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, Dontario Drummond's three catches on the year have all resulted in touchdowns and give the Laurel product 13 scoring grabs for his EMCC career.
Guided by fifth-year head coach Sean Cannon, the ICC Indians are 1-1 overall on the year with their first two decisions having been decided by only 10 total points. While trailing 27-7 at the half of both contests, Itawamba came back to knock off Pearl River (34-30) on the road in the season opener before falling at home to East Central (34-28) last week. The Indians were previously ranked 14th nationally before last week's home setback to the Warriors. Prior to being promoted to head coach in 2014, Cannon spent the previous four seasons as ICC's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach on Jon Williams' staff.
EMCC's Stephens owns a 9-1 career record versus Itawamba (4-0 in Scooba, 4-1 in Fulton & 1-0 in West Point). During the past three years, the two teams have combined to score an average of 76.7 points per meeting between them. The Lions have prevailed in Scooba during each of the last two meetings (2017 & 2015) by identical scores of 48-24, while they came away from Fulton with a hard-fought 44-42 road victory over ICC two years ago.
Under Stephens' guidance, the EMCC Lions have compiled a 56-4 record (.933) in MACJC North Division regular-season contests as eight-time divisional champions (2008-09 & 2011-16). They have gone unbeaten in regular-season division play seven times during the previous 10 seasons. EMCC's most recent divisional setbacks came last year at Northwest Mississippi and at Itawamba during the 2012 regular-season finale.
EMCC's Lions enter Thursday's ICC contest winners of 76 of their last 81 contests dating back to their first of four national championship seasons coming over the past seven years (2011, '13, '14 & '17).
Thursday's EMCC-ICC contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Jonathan Holmes slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, while Glen Beard is set to handle sideline reporting duties. EMCC's 2018 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.