By Tony Tsoukalas / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
East Mississippi Community College received some extra rest this week coming into its homecoming matchup against Coahoma Community College today at 2 p.m.
The Lions don’t appear to be in much need of any time to regroup though, as they enter the game fresh off of a school record 70-0 victory over Mississippi Delta Community College. So far this season EMCC (4-0, 1-0) has outscored its opponents 247-6. Last week’s win, coupled with a loss from then-No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast, helped the Lions climb to No. 3 in the NJCAA rankings.
EMCC remained No. 1 in the NJCAA in points scored (61.8) and in points allowed (1.5). However, head coach Buddy Stephens said the Lions will have to continue to improve if they are to earn a third-straight MACJC North Division title.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Stephens said. “We’ve accomplished small task, but we haven’t accomplished any of our goals yet. We have got to keep our eyes on the prize at the end of the season.”
Here are five things to look for in today’s game against Coahoma.
1) Dynamite Don: East Mississippi quarterback Dontreal Pruitt joined former Lions Bo Wallace and Brad Henderson as the only quarterbacks in the Buddy Stephens Era to pass for over 500 yards in a game. Last week, the sophomore racked up 502 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-39 passing against the Trojans.
Pruitt is now third in the NJCAA in passing yards per game (341.8) and in passing touchdowns (16). Through four games, he has passed for 1,367 yards while adding another two touchdowns and 175 yards on the ground.
“This season is going how I expected it,” Pruitt said. “I worked hard all summer and throughout the spring. This is the outcome I expected, and I’m still trying to put up bigger numbers if I can.”
2) The streak: A three-yard touchdown run by Pearl River running back Detrick Goff in the third quarter of EMCC’s season opener remains the only defensive blemish this season for the Lions. EMCC shut out the Wildcats in the fourth quarter before blanking its next three opponents to extend its shutout streak to 13-straight quarters.
“We feel that if we can hold people to zero points, our chances of winning go up dramatically,” EMCC defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “Streaks and records, we don’t talk a lot about that though. The guys know what the expectation is, and that is just the way they play.”
Lesley said the defense has benefited from lining up against the No.1 offense in the nation every week during practice. The scrimmages between the nation’s top defense and offense has even developed a friendly rivalry for Lions.
“There is alway that little bit of a competitive side,” Lesley said. “You have some of the best players in the state going against some of the best players on offense. So, individually they want to compete against each other.”
3) Pick your poison: Ken Breland and Deshadrick Truly both returned interceptions for touchdowns against Delta to bring EMCC’s season total to 12 over four games. Stephens is pleased with the defense and said winning the turnover battle will be key as the Lions continue to face tougher competition moving forward.
“Knock on wood,” Stephens said. “The defense has been playing real well. A lot of those turnovers are forced turnovers. We’ve got to continue to do a good job of that on defense and do a better job of not putting the ball on the ground on offense.”
4) Scoreboard watching: Today will be an interesting day for EMCC not only on the field but off it. The No. 3 Lions sit behind Navarro College and Iowa Western Community College who both face tough tests. No. 1 Navarro hosts a Trinity Valley Community College team that barely lost to No. 2 Iowa Western, 24-17, in Week 1. Meanwhile, the defending national champion Reivers travel to No. 5 Georgia Military College. A loss by either team would help the Lions next week when the NJCAA’s Football Computer Rankings (FCR) go into effect for the first time this season.
“That’s what we got into last year,” Stephens said. “We got into scoreboard watching. We were worried too much about the scoreboard. It has been a big influence on us to keep us from doing the very same thing that we did last year. It doesn’t matter where we are ranked. Each and every week we have to take care of the next team.”
5) Tormenting the Tigers: The Lions have had plenty of success against this year’s homecoming foe, Coahoma. Since Coahoma’s entrance into the MACJC in 1976, the Lions hold a 36-1 record over the Tigers. Coahoma enters today matchup at 0-4 with losses to Gulf Coast, Hinds, Northwest and Pearl River.
“They have really good athletes,” Stephens said. “They can get behind you at wide receiver and big-play you. We have got to be solid.”