(Condensed article from: http://athletics.eastms.edu/ )
SCOOBA – In preparation of making their second state championship game appearance in three years, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College have moved into the No. 2 position in this week’s NJCAA Top 20 national football poll.
Having already made school history by recording the football program’s first-ever undefeated regular season, head coach Buddy Stephens’ 10-0 EMCC Lions will play host to the fifth-ranked Bulldogs of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC (9-1) Saturday afternoon for this year’s state football championship of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC). Kickoff at EMCC’s New Sullivan-Windham Field is set for 2 p.m. on the Scooba campus.
One win shy of matching the school’s all-time mark of 11 victories registered by Stephens’ 2009 state championship club, this year’s EMCC squad advanced to Saturday’s upcoming title game by claiming a 55-24 home triumph over then-No. 14 Hinds CC this past Saturday in Scooba. Gulf Coast comes to Scooba following a tough 20-17 overtime home playoff win over Northeast Mississippi.
After holding steady at the No. 3 position since the beginning of October, the EMCC Lions continue to sit behind new No. 1 Arizona Western College, which received four of this week’s seven first-place votes after previously top-ranked Blinn College (Texas) fell to No. 7 in this week’s poll following its 37-34 playoff loss to Tyler JC (Texas). With EMCC trailing AWC by just five total voting points (137-132) heading into the final week prior to the start of the bowl season, the Lions will bid to further impress poll voters and bowl game committees with Saturday’s state championship showdown against fifth-ranked and reigning state champion Mississippi Gulf Coast. Undefeated Arizona Western will conclude its pre-bowl slate Saturday by taking on Mesa Community College (1-9) for the second time this season.
This week’s Top 5 of the NJCAA national poll also has Butler Community College (Kan.) and Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College each inching up one spot apiece to third and fourth, respectively. Along with No. 5 MGCCC and seventh-ranked Blinn, the NJCAA’s current Top 10 is also comprised of New Mexico Military Institute at No. 6, eighth-ranked Hutchinson Community College (Kan.) along with Navarro College (Texas) and Rochester Community & Technical College (Minn.) at No. 9 and 10, respectively.
With East Mississippi’s 2011 football schedule having come full circle, the Lions kicked off the current campaign and opened their new $4.7 million, 5,000-seat football facility by claiming a 34-30 home triumph over then-No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast back on Sept. 1. Pitting the past two state junior college football champions in front of an EMCC home crowd in excess of 4,000 spectators, this year’s earlier gridiron battle resulted in the same margin of victory and ended in the same fashion – a game-ending interception by the EMCC defense – as the Lions’ memorable 75-71 regulation shootout victory over the Bulldogs in the 2009 MACJC state championship contest played in Scooba.
The winner of Saturday’s MACJC state championship game will earn an automatic invitation to compete in the Mississippi Bowl, to be hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast at Biloxi Indians Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 4 in Biloxi. Two years ago, EMCC’s 2009 state championship squad earned a 27-24 Mississippi Bowl victory over Arizona Western when the Lions and Matadors were ranked fifth and sixth nationally, respectively.
East Mississippi’s current No. 2 NJCAA football ranking marks the second time in three years that the Lions have been in the runner-up spot nationally. Two years ago during EMCC’s run toward a school-first state football championship, the 2009 Lions squad held the No. 2 position in the NJCAA poll for two weeks early in the year before dropping a 43-26 home decision to Mississippi Gulf Coast.