Meridian Star

September 12, 2013

Is this year’s EMCC team the best of all time?

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Perhaps the best thing that happened to the East Central Community College football team last week against East Mississippi Community College was when officials decided to let the clock continuously run throughout the fourth quarter. Other than that, nothing went right for the Warriors as they lost, 59-0, to an EMCC team that appeared to be on an entirely different level.

    That’s not even a shot at the Warriors. In Week 1, Pearl River suffered a similar fate falling 49-6 to the Lions at home. In both games, EMCC took commanding leads into halftime — 35-0 against Pearl River and 38-0 against East Central. The Lions would have won both games even if their offense had never taken the field, as A.J. Stamps returned a 100-yard pick-six in Game 1 and Christian Russell scooped up a fumble for a 19-yard score in Game 2. EMCC has also managed to average 71 plays a game despite spending most of the second half running out the clock.

    Chances are Southwest will add itself to the list of victims tonight, as the overmatched Bears come into Scooba fresh off a 40-6 beating from Itawamba. In fact, it doesn’t appear the Lions will face much competition until a regular-season finale against Itawamba on Oct. 24. EMCC is just that much better than everybody else.

    The real question is this: are these Lions the best ever?

    Last week’s 59-0 win marked the sixth shutout under head coach Buddy Stephens. Better yet, the Lions allowed the Warriors just 88 total yards in the game — 49 yards rushing and 39 yards passing — to set an all-time low under Stephens.

    On offense, the 59-point performance is tied for third in school history, trailing only the 75 points scored in the 2009 state championship game against Mississippi Gulf Coast and the 63 points scored in a 2011 meeting against Northeast.

    Still, Stephens is shy to call this team the best he’s coached.

    “We still have to find that perfect game,” Stephens said. “This team’s a lot like the 2011 team. We searched and searched to find a game where we could play the whole game. We have yet to do that, and that’s what we are searching for.”

    If the Lions haven’t found that game in two games where they have outscored opponents 108-6, it’s scary to think what it will look like if that day comes.

    Stephens said the 2011 team never found its perfect game. This year’s bunch isn’t certain to find theirs either. But, one thing the Lions have going for them is a drive to be the best.

    Back-to-back heartbreaking losses to end the season last year created a never-again attitude among returning players. Playing free of complacency, the Lions look hungry to not only win but improve each week while doing it.

     In fact, the team has become so business-like, even Stephens is encouraging the group to have a little bit more fun.

    “I just want them to go out and play free,” Stephens said. “I don’t want them to feel like they have to live up to any expectations except for our’s.”

    Outside expectations will continue to pile up though, especially if the Lions continue to blow out opponents at a record pace.

    So is this year’s bunch the best of all time? The results will show. I just wouldn’t want to be on the other side of figuring it out.