Meridian Star

Sports

November 3, 2012

No. 10 EMCC looks to rebound in playoff opener

SCOOBA —     Making their fifth straight appearance in the MACJC state football playoffs, the 10th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College play host to the 15th-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wolfpack today at 2 p.m. at Sullivan-Windham Field.

    Reigning NJCAA national champions and MACJC state/NJCAA Region 23 champions, fifth-year head coach Buddy Stephens' 8-1 EMCC Lions will be looking to get back on track after having their 20-game winning streak snapped with last Saturday's 24-23 setback at Itawamba Community College. The loss in the regular-season finale marked EMCC's first defeat since dropping a 48-21 playoff decision at Copiah-Lincoln during the 2010 MACJC state semifinal round. The Lions also had their 20-game win string in regular-season play snapped, having not previously lost during the regular season since falling at home 49-42 to Northeast Mississippi back on Oct. 7, 2010.

    In addition, last Saturday's one-point loss at Itawamba was just the third division defeat suffered by the Lions since Stephens took over EMCC's head coaching duties. With East Mississippi now 27-3 (.900) in MACJC North Division play since 2008, last week's loss in Fulton also marked the Lions' first division road setback in 15 outings away from home dating back to 2008.

    Owners of a five-year composite record of 44-9 (.830) during the Stephens era, including a fourth MACJC North Division title coming this year, the EMCC Lions are 4-2 collectively in the MACJC atate pPlayoffs since the 2011 NJCAA National Coach of the Year arrived on the Scooba scene. In contrast, East Mississippi had only made one prior playoff showing (1984) since the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) went to the football playoff system in 1970.

    A year ago en route to claiming the school's first NJCAA national championship, the EMCC Lions earned their second MACJC state/NJCAA Region 23 football title in three years by besting 14th-ranked Hinds (55-24) in the semifinals and then knocking off No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast (42-17) in the title game. Both contests were played on the Scooba campus, as was the case back in 2009 when EMCC collected the school's first state football championship with home triumphs against No. 19 Jones County (26-16) and third-ranked Gulf Coast (75-71). The Lions' recent postseason losses came in semifinal-round play two years ago to 10th-ranked Co-Lin (48-21) in Wesson and at home to No. 12 Pearl River (42-35) back in 2008.

    Guided by ninth-year head coach Glenn Davis, Copiah-Lincoln sports a 7-2 overall record and 5-1 division mark after finishing the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the MACJC's South Division behind seventh-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Wolfpack's lone setbacks during the regular season both came at home to this year's other two state playoff teams. Co-Lin fell 54-21 to MGCCC two weeks ago and earlier dropped a 42-21 decision to No. 2 North seed and ninth-ranked Northwest Mississippi during the second week of the season. Most recently, the Wolfpack secured its playoff spot by claiming a 23-10 road victory against Southwest Mississippi to close out the regular season.

    East Mississippi and Copiah-Lincoln have met three previous times on the gridiron since Stephens assumed EMCC's head coaching duties five years ago. Prior to EMCC's playoff loss at Co-Lin in 2010, the Lions had previously knocked off the Wolfpack during the 2008 (28-9 in Scooba) and 2009 (27-13 in Wesson) season openers.

    Today's other MACJC semifinal-round contest will have ninth-ranked Northwest Mississippi (7-1) traveling to Perkinston to take on No. 7 Mississippi Gulf Coast (8-1). The winners of the two semifinals will meet for the 2012 MACJC state/NJCAA Region 23 championship Nov. 10 at a site to be determined based on this weekend's outcomes. With the MACJC rotating the championship-game site between the two divisions every other year, this season marks the South Division's turn to host the state title tilt. Should the championship contest pair two intra-division foes, the higher-seeded team would earn the right to host the title game.

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