SCOOBA – Following solid home wins over Pearl River and Itawamba, the fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College hit the road to take on Mississippi Delta Community College in MACJC North Division play Thursday evening in Moorhead. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Jim Randall Stadium on the MDCC campus.
Bouncing back from their season-opening 24-16 road loss to Hinds that snapped a 17-game winning streak, the reigning national and state champion EMCC Lions began the month of September by claiming home victories over Pearl River (49-15) and Itawamba (48-3) the past two weeks. A week ago in Scooba against ICC, East Mississippi scored three offensive touchdowns during the first four minutes and 26 seconds of the game en route to posting a commanding 41-3 halftime lead and ultimately extending its seven-year home win string to 35 consecutive games with the 45-point triumph over the visiting Indians.
Despite playing the entire second half of last week's win over Itawamba utilizing a running clock due to the MACJC's mandated 38-point mercy rule, EMCC's quarterback tandem of sophomore transfer Connor Neville (Beaverton, OR) and freshman Jamari Jones (Northwest Rankin HS) combined to complete 22-of-28 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns against the Indians. For the season, Neville and Jones have teamed up to average an NJCAA-leading 365.3 passing yards per game between them. Individually, Neville, a transfer from Washington State University, currently ranks fifth nationally in passing yards (285.3 yds/gm), tied for third with nine passing touchdowns and sixth in pass completion percentage (64-of-100 for 64%).
With the Lions featuring 10 different receivers with multiple catches on the year, sophomores Jason Brownlee (West Point) and Pervis Frazier (Louisville) are tied for 14th nationally with 16 receptions apiece through the first three games. On the heels of consecutive 100-yard receiving efforts against PRCC and ICC, Brownlee is also ranked fifth among NJCAA leaders with a state-best average of 102 receiving yards per game along with averaging 19.1 yards per catch. Fellow sophomore Austin Morphis (Pontotoc) is EMCC's other double-digit receiver with 11 grabs on the season after having a career night with eight receptions for 112 yards last week versus Itawamba.
On the ground for the 2-1 Lions, sophomore Keon Moore (Harrison Central HS) leads the way with 178 rushing yards on 38 attempts after running for a season-high 81 yards on 12 carries a week ago against ICC. Freshmen Zias Perryman (Laurel) and Hamm McGee (St. Martin HS) enter Week 4 just shy of the century mark with 96 and 94 rushing yards, respectively, for the year.
Defensively, the Lions have combined for 28 tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a team, including a dozen quarterback sacks, along with four pass interceptions. Individually, freshman linebacker DeShawn Page (Knoxville, TN) leads EMCC's deep defensive unit with 15 total tackles on the season, while sophomore defensive end Terence Cherry (West Point) owns team-high marks of three quarterback sacks and three forced fumbles. In the secondary, sophomore cornerback Shavoke' Herrington (Natchez) picked off his team-leading second interception of the year during last week's win over Itawamba.
Guided by seventh-year head coach Jeff Tatum, the Trojans of Mississippi Delta are winless in three decisions all coming against teams currently ranked among the NJCAA's Top 20. Following a season-opening 49-9 home setback to now-No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast, Delta has since dropped a narrow 19-17 home decision to 19th-ranked Hinds and last week fell, 33-3, at third-ranked Northwest Mississippi.
Sporting an overall head coaching record of 112-14 (.889) in his 12th season with the EMCC Lions, Buddy Stephens is unbeaten in 11 prior meetings with Mississippi Delta (6-0 in Scooba & 5-0 in Moorhead). Last season (Sept. 20) in Scooba, the Lions scored seven different ways while recording a 54-13 home victory, including a 30-point second quarter, over the Trojans. Along with posting rushing and passing touchdowns plus a field goal on the offensive side, EMCC recorded a pick-six and a safety on defense in addition to special teams scores on both a blocked punt return and a traditional punt return. Two years ago (Sept. 28, 2017) in Moorhead, the Lions jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead on the way to earning a 45-7 road win over the Trojans.
Under Stephens' guidance, the EMCC Lions have amassed a composite 63-4 (.940) record in MACJC North Division regular-season contests as nine-time divisional champions (2008-09, 2011-16 & 2018). The five-time national champions and seven-time state champs have gone unbeaten in regular-season division play eight times during the previous 11 seasons.
Thursday's EMCC-Delta divisional 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. The broadcast 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. Along with Thursday's game scheduled to be live-streamed by Mississippi Delta at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm5e4ZsFm6LYxdPcUJ6pLlQ, an alternate audio stream of EMCC's radio broadcast is also slated to be available online at wfca.fm.