SCOOBA – The eighth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College begin the final third of their regular-season football schedule by traveling to Goodman to take on Holmes Community College during Thursday's MACJC North Division action. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Ras Branch Field on the Holmes campus.
Sitting with two regular-season losses for the first time since 2010, the 4-2 EMCC Lions (2-1 in MACJC North) most recently had their seven-year, 36-game home winning streak snapped with last week's 56-36 setback to Northwest Mississippi. Sandwiched between last Thursday's loss to the Rangers and their season-opening 24-16 road setback at Hinds, the Lions previously bounced back by posting an unbeaten month of September with consecutive wins over Pearl River (49-15), Itawamba (48-3), Mississippi Delta (41-23) and East Central (24-0). EMCC's two defeats this season have come to a pair of teams currently sporting 5-1 overall records and are rated second (Northwest) and sixth (Hinds), respectively, in this week's NJCAA football rankings.
Statistically as a team on the year, East Mississippi enters Week 7 ranked 11th among the NJCAA leaders averaging 35.7 points per game. In addition, the Lions rank second nationally in both total offense and passing offense with respective averages of 493.7 total yards and 340 passing yards an outing for the season. Defensively after two more picks last week against Northwest Mississippi, EMCC is tied for seventh nationally with a state-leading 10 pass interceptions on the year.
Individually for EMCC, transfer quarterback Connor Neville (Beaverton, OR) currently ranks second among the NJCAA statistical leaders with an average of 288.2 passing yards per contest. The Washington State transfer rates eighth nationally with 13 passing touchdowns as well as in pass completion percentage (145-of-233 for 62.2%). On the receiving end, sophomore Jason Brownlee is presently tied for second among the NJCAA ranks in receptions (44) and touchdown catches (8) on the season. With four 100-yard receiving efforts and at least one touchdown grab in all six games this year, the West Point product also ranks third nationally with an average of 112.7 receiving yards per contest.
Guided by ninth-year head coach Jeff Koonz, the Holmes Bulldogs are 2-4 overall and 2-1 in MACJC North Division play following last Thursday's 27-21 division road loss to Itawamba. The previous week, Holmes racked up 568 yards of total offense, including 480 rushing yards, to upset then-No. 3 Northwest Mississippi, 47-42, in Goodman. Utilizing their famed triple option offensive attack, the Bulldogs currently rank second among the NJCAA team statistical leaders with an average of 255.5 rushing yards per game. After opening the season with non-division setbacks to Copiah-Lincoln (27-21), Jones (23-7) and Mississippi Gulf Coast (41-7), Holmes got into the win column with a 14-6 division road victory over Northeast Mississippi three weeks ago in Booneville.
Sporting an overall head coaching record of 114-15 (.884) and MACJC North Division mark of 64-5 (.928) in his 12th season with the EMCC Lions, Buddy Stephens owns an 11-0 career record against Holmes (6-0 in Scooba & 5-0 in Goodman). Last season (Oct. 13) in Scooba, the Lions scored 28 unanswered second-half points to close out a 56-21 homecoming victory over the Bulldogs. EMCC also prevailed the previous year (Oct. 5, 2017) on the Scooba campus with a 49-3 home triumph over 15th-ranked Holmes. During the most recent series meeting in Goodman (Oct. 6, 2016), the fifth-ranked Lions and the No. 16 Bulldogs combined for nearly 1,200 yards of total offense, 112 total points (63-49 EMCC win) and 54 first downs between the two teams during an offensive slugfest played at Ras Branch Field.
Thursday's EMCC-Holmes divisional contest will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder set to call the play-by-play action. The Lions' 2019 football radio broadcasts are also 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 are available in HD at www.EMCCAthletics.com/live. Alternate audio streams of the radio broadcasts are also available at www.wfca.fm.