The Meridian Star
After slipping to No. 3 in the National Junior College Athletic Association rankings earlier in the week, the East Mississippi Community College football team wanted to make a statement. Thursday night the Lions dismantled Northeast Mississippi Community College 59-0 — statement made.
“We definitely made a statement,” EMCC defensive lineman Jarran Reed said. “We had to come out here and show them we are going to play hard, and we are going to play till the whistle blows. We’ll keep doing out job.”
No. 2 Jones County narrowly beat the Tigers, 34-28, in Week 2. The Lions had no such trouble, rolling out to a 38-0 lead at halftime.
EMCC racked up 544 yards to NEMCC’s 14 with quarterback Dontreal Pruitt leading the way. The sophomore went 18-of-31 passing for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball eight times for an additional 57 yards and a touchdown. Todd Mays completed 8-of-13 passes for 73 yards and added 36 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
C.J. Bates led the Lions in receiving with six catches for 116 yards. Former Meridian High School Wildcat Antoinne Adkins had three catches for 31 yards, while fellow Meridian product Isaac Johnson had two receptions for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
“It felt very good, especially to get my first two-score game with EMCC,” Johnson said. “My career at this school started pretty good.”
Johnson’s day ended on a sour note though, as he twisted his leg late in the third quarter.
“I tried to make a cut and it just locked up on me,” he said.
EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens said he talked with team doctors after the game who told him Johnson might have torn his ACL. The team is still awaiting official medical results.
Sophomore running back Lakenderic Thomas put the Lions on the board first with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal to put EMCC up 7-0 after its first drive.
The Tigers answered back on the next drive, moving the ball to the EMCC 39-yard line, but the Lions would force an incomplete pass on third-and-10 to end the scoring threat.
“We kept our heads down and kept doing what we were supposed to do,” Reed said. “Eventually we shut it down, and they didn’t have anything else. They were out of their element.”
The Lions scored again on their next possession as Pruitt ran in a four-yard touchdown to put EMCC up 14-0. Later in the quarter, former MHS standout Laderrick Roberts chased down a loose football after the Tigers snapped it over their punter’s head deep in their own territory. The play would set up a one-yard touchdown from Todd Mays two plays later. The takeaway was one of five for the Lions on the night.
“All I saw were cleats,” Roberts said of the play. “I missed the ball the first time, so I just started bear crawling.”
With the Lions up 31-0,
cornerback Fenest Armstrong returned a pick-6 interception from the 18 yard line as the Lions went into the half with the game seemingly won. The score was the fifth pick-6 of the season for EMCC. So far, Lions defense alone has outscored opponents 36-13 this season.
EMCC linebacker Christian Russell was ejected in the third quarter for targeting a defenseless player. By rule, he will also miss the first half of next week’s game.
EMCC (7-0, 4-0) will travel to Northwest Mississippi Community College next week.
“I’m just proud to coach this team,” Stephens said. “I think we did really well...I think we were thorough. I think we played well in all three phases of the game. I hope this sends a message to recruits, the rest of the league and our team that we are pretty good.”