SCOOBA – Having secured their ninth MACJC North Division football title in 11 seasons under the guidance of head coach Buddy Stephens, the reigning national and state champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College (8-0, 5-0 MACJC North) will close out their regular-season slate by traveling to Booneville for Thursday's road contest against the Northeast Mississippi Community College Tigers. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium on the NEMCC campus.
Poised to make their 10th MACJC state playoff appearance under Stephens' leadership, the top-ranked EMCC Lions will entertain MACJC South Division runner-up Copiah-Lincoln Community College on Saturday, Nov. 3, in an MACJC state semifinal matchup on the Scooba campus. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field. The MACJC's other state semifinal contest on Nov. 3 will pit the MACJC South Division champion Jones College Bobcats against the winner of Thursday's MACJC North Division battle between fifth-ranked Northwest Mississippi and Itawamba. The two winners from the state semifinals will play for the 2018 MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 football championship the following Saturday (Nov. 10) at a site to be determined by the results of the state semifinals.
Bidding to complete their fourth unbeaten regular season and eighth undefeated MACJC North Division regular-season slate during the Stephens era, the EMCC Lions continue to stand alone atop the NJCAA Football Rankings as they have each week since this year's preseason poll. East Mississippi's previous perfect regular-season campaigns in 2011, 2013 and 2014 all resulted in NJCAA national championships.
Winners of 82 of their last 87 games over the last eight seasons, including a current streak of 13 consecutive wins dating back to last year, the Lions most recently registered their 22nd shutout of the Stephens era with last Thursday's 47-0 home blanking of the Coahoma Tigers. EMCC previously kicked off the current campaign with a 50-0 whitewash of the Hinds Eagles back on Aug. 30.
Statistically as a team, the Lions presently rank third nationally in scoring offense with an average of 47.5 points per game, including five games on the year scoring 50 or more points. On the other side of the ball, EMCC's vaunted defensive unit rates fourth in the nation giving up an average of only 12.1 points per contest. Offensively on the year, the Lions stand seventh among the NJCAA's team statistical leaders in total offense (444.0 yds/gm), tied for fourth with 26 rushing touchdowns as a team, and 10th in passing yardage (254.4 yds/gm).
Individually, transfer running back Deon McIntosh is bidding to become the second straight East Mississippi running back to lead the NJCAA in rushing touchdowns. On the heels of former EMCC Lion and current Chattanooga Moc Tyrell Price topping the NJCAA with 24 scores via the ground a year ago, McIntosh presently leads the nation with 15 rushing touchdowns this season. The Notre Dame transfer has rushed for 100 or more yards during each of his last four outings and is 155 yards shy of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the year. With six games of multiple rushing scores on the season, McIntosh ranks 10th nationally and second in the MACJC with an average of 105.6 rushing yards per outing.
Through the air for the Lions, Michigan State transfer quarterback Messiah deWeaver rates fourth nationally in pass completion percentage (68.5%). EMCC's top receiving targets for the year continue to be sophomores Kalem Reddix and Dontario Drummond with 39 and 34 catches, respectively. Drummond is tied for fifth among the national leaders with eight touchdown receptions this season to go along with his 10 scoring grabs a year ago as an EMCC freshman.
With an 11-year overall coaching record of 106-13 (.891) as the NJCAA's seventh-winningest active head football coach, including a 61-4 (.938) regular-season mark against MACJC North Division opponents, EMCC's Stephens owns a 9-1 career record versus the Northeast Tigers (5-0 in Booneville & 4-1 in Scooba). A year ago in Booneville (Sept. 14, 2017), EMCC produced a 28-point opening quarter en route to kicking off MACJC North Division play with a 59-0 road blanking of the Tigers.
Guided by fourth-year head football coach Greg Davis, the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi are 1-7 on the season after dropping 31-7 road decision to fifth-ranked Northwest Mississippi last week in Senatobia. Northeast's lone victory of the year was a 20-18 home division triumph over Coahoma during Week 3 (Sept. 13). Two of the Tigers' setbacks this season have come by single digits with a 33-28 season-opening loss at Southwest Mississippi and a heartbreaking 37-31 double-overtime defeat at Itawamba on Sept. 27.
Thursday's EMCC-Northeast regular-season finale 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.