SCOOBA – Coming off last week's pivotal 34-6 road win over previously second-ranked Northwest Mississippi, the top-ranked and reigning national champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College return home to play host to Holmes Community College on Saturday afternoon as part of Homecoming 2018 festivities on the Scooba campus. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field.
Along with the introduction of EMCC's 2018 Homecoming Queen and her court, halftime activities of the Lions' Homecoming contest against the Holmes Bulldogs will also feature the recognition of the school's 2018 Alumnus of the Year recipient (John Apple) and Distinguished Service Award winner (Dewayne Hull). Also to be recognized at halftime will be EMCC's 2018 Sports Hall of Fame induction class comprised of Larry Anderson, Jack Lewis Dudley, Lynn Ethridge Roberson, Mary Ann Hodges Fulton, Lance Lewis, Mike Luke, Kate Neely McCarty, Dwane Taylor, Larry Vick and Raleigh Wood III.
Having received all 17 first-place votes in the NJCAA Football Rankings for the third consecutive week, 11th-year head coach Buddy Stephens' EMCC Lions head into the final third of this year's MACJC regular-season slate sporting an unblemished 6-0 overall record and 3-0 MACJC North Division mark on the heels of last week's 28-point road victory over now-No. 5 Northwest Mississippi. After opening the current season by scoring 50 or more points during consecutive wins over Hinds (50-0), Pearl River (59-10), Itawamba (56-26) and Mississippi Delta (54-13), the Lions survived their toughest challenge to date by earning a last-second 24-21 road win over East Central on Josh Smith's game-winning, 19-yard field goal two weeks ago (Sept. 27) in Decatur.
On the strength of their four straight 50-point efforts to kick off the 2018 campaign, the EMCC Lions currently rank fourth nationally scoring an average of 46.2 points per game. While standing sixth among the NJCAA team statistical leaders in total offense (463.2 yds/gm), East Mississippi ranks seventh nationally with an average of 280.5 passing yards per contest along with being tied for sixth with 18 rushing touchdowns as a team on the year.
Defensively for the season, EMCC is ranked fifth nationally and tops within the MACJC in scoring defense by having allowed an average of only 12.7 points per game. Having yielded only three rushing touchdowns through six games, the Lions are coming off last week's dominant defensive team effort in which they limited Northwest Mississippi to -20 rushing yards on 32 attempts with 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (11 sacks for 74 yards lost). Through the air, EMCC is tied for ninth nationally with a state-most 11 pass interceptions on the season, including at least one pick in each game and three returned for touchdowns (2 by JaQuez Akins and 1 by Shavoke Herrington).
Individually for East Mississippi, Notre Dame transfer running back Deon McIntosh is tied for the nation's lead (w/Garden City's Dedrick Mills) with 11 rushing touchdowns while having crossed the goal line at least once in all six games this season. On the heels of back-to-back, 100-yard rushing efforts (177 at ECCC & 106 at NWCC), McIntosh now ranks 12th nationally with an average of 98.8 rushing yards per outing. On the receiving end, EMCC sophomore Dontario Drummond is tied for second among NJCAA statistical leaders with seven touchdown receptions along with ranking 15th by averaging 17.7 yards per catch. Drummond's 27 catches on the year trail only Kalem Reddix's 29 receptions for the team lead.
With a career record of 104-13 (.889) as the NJCAA's seventh-winningest active head football coach, EMCC's Stephens is unbeaten in 10 previous Homecoming contests for the Lions, including last year's 72-7 victory over Coahoma on Oct. 21. He also owns a 10-0 career record versus Holmes that is split evenly between games contested in Scooba and Goodman. A year ago (Oct. 5) on the Scooba campus, a 28-point third quarter powered the top-ranked EMCC Lions to a 49-3 home triumph over No. 15 Holmes. Prior to last season, EMCC claimed high-scoring road victories over the Bulldogs during the 2016 (63-49) and 2015 (44-28) seasons.
Guided by eighth-year head coach Jeff Koonz, the Holmes Bulldogs are 3-3 overall on the year and 1-2 in MACJC North play after dropping a narrow 37-34 home decision to Itawamba last week. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as No. 14 this year in the Sept. 25 NJCAA Football Rankings after knocking off Copiah-Lincoln (29-28), Jones (25-23) and Northeast Mississippi (28-13) during the first month of the season. Holmes' other two setbacks on the year have come on the road to Mississippi Gulf Coast (48-14) and Northwest Mississippi (27-14). Noted for their triple option offensive attack, the Bulldogs rank seventh nationally averaging an MACJC-best 248.8 rushing yards per game.
Under Stephens' guidance as eight-time divisional champions (2008-09 & 2011-16), the EMCC Lions have compiled a 59-4 record (.937) in MACJC North Division regular-season contests. They have gone unbeaten in regular-season division play seven times during the previous 10 seasons. EMCC's current home divisional win string stands at 23 consecutive games in a streak that dates back to the last home game played (38-14 win over Holmes) at the previous site of Sullivan-Windham Field during the 2010 regular-season finale.
Sporting an eight-year composite home record of 40-1 since moving into their current Sullivan-Windham Field location prior to the 2011 football season, the EMCC Lions presently own a 30-game home winning streak over the past six seasons.
Saturday's EMCC Homecoming contest against Holmes 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.