The Meridian Star
Tying a National Junior College Athletic Association record for points in a game can really wear a team down. With just four days to prepare for tonight’s North Division matchup against Holmes Community College, East Mississippi Community College head coach Buddy Stephens admits his bunch is a little tired.
“Everybody is sore,” Stephens said. “We have been here since the first of the summer. Every now and then you need a day off, and hopefully we can get that on Friday."
Saturday, the Lions beat Coahoma 90-7 on homecoming to tie the 2011 Hutchinson Community College team for most points in a game. The win, paired with losses from previously ranked No. 1 Navarro and No. 2 Iowa Western propelled EMCC to No. 2 in the latest NJCAA poll.
Holmes (1-4, 1-2) will look to pull the upset over EMCC (5-0, 1-0) after blowing out Mississippi Delta , 58-6, on the road last week. Last year EMCC defeated Holmes, 35-0, on homecoming with both teams heading into the half tied at 0-0. Stephens said the Lions will have to prepare for a four-quarter battle as they face the Bulldogs and their up-tempo offense.
“The toughest games we’ve had the last two or three years have been games against Holmes,” Stephens said. “Since Coach Koonz and his staff has got there, they have been a definite thorn in our side.”
So far this season EMCC has outscored its opposition 337-13. The Lions lead the nation in points per game (67.4) and points allowed (2.6). Kickoff for the matchup is set for 7 p.m. in Goodman.
Here are five things to watch for in tonight’s game.
Underdogs have some bite: Three of the Bulldogs’ four losses this season have come from teams currently ranked in the NJCAA top 10. Holmes opened up its season with a 54-14 loss to currently ranked No. 3 Jones County before falling, 36-7, to No. 10 Mississippi Gulf Coast in Week 2. The Bulldogs suffered back-to-back narrow defeats in Week 3 and 4, losing 17-14 to Northeast and 13-10 to No. 4 Itawamba.
Win and they’re in?: They Lions appear to control their own destiny after moving up to No. 2 in the latest NJCAA poll. Despite earning seven of the nine first-place votes, EMCC sits behind Georgia Military College due in part to the Lions’ weak strength of schedule so far. This week marked the first time the Football Computer Rankings went into effect this season. The FCR accounts for 33.3 percent of the rankings with the other 66.7 percent coming from the nine coaches votes. At the end of the season the top two teams are selected to play in the NJCAA championship.
“Everything is in front of us,” Stephens said. “If we can win ballgames, we will play for the title. But, we got to do all those things first, and there are a lot of ballgames left.”
Pruitt stays hot: Dontreal Pruitt continues to cement himself as one of the premiere quarterbacks in the NJCAA after completing 22-of-28 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns in just one half of play against Coahoma last week. Pruitt leads the nation in touchdown passes with 21 and is third in the nation with 349 passing yards per game. The sophomore from Laurel High School also leads the NJCAA in yards per attempt (11.3) among passers with over 50 attempts this season and is fourth in the nation with a 69.7 percent completion percentage. On top of putting up eye-popping numbers, Pruitt has protected the ball as well, only throwing two interceptions through his first five games.
Spread the Wealth: Pruitt can thank a talented group of receivers for much of his success. The Lions have had nine different receivers catch touchdown passes this season as they continue to distribute the ball across the field. EMCC’s top three receivers are separated by only one reception apiece. Freshman C.J. Bates leads the way with 19 followed by former Meridian High School standout Antoinne Adkins with 18 and Brandon Bell with 17.
Kicking it with STST: Despite only kicking one field goal this season, EMCC place kicker Drew White sits third in the nation in scoring with 52 points. The freshman from Tupelo High School has connected on 46-of-48 extra point attempts for the Lions, including the 90th point in EMCC’s record win over Coahoma last week. While White has yet to line up for a field goal with the game on the line, his presence has been felt for the Lions this year. White, along with kickoff specialist Morgan Rhodes and long snapper Evan Grimes have banned together to form what they call Scooba Tech Special teams or STST. The group has been featured numerous times on EMCC’s television show “Inside the Pride” for its light-hearted humor during practice.
“We have a lot of time to sit around and think and talk,” White said. “We just kind of came up with STST one day when we were sitting around thinking of what we can call ourselves because we see each other as such a tight unit. We came up with STST, and we’ve been clowning ever since.”