SCOOBA – Before East Mississippi hoisted their first ever football national championship, the coaches knew it was going to be a slugfest. Both the Lions and Matadors were ranked nationally in offense and featured some of the country’s top talent in every position.
EMCC secondary coach Clifton Collins knew it was going to be a battle from the opening kickoff.
“They got some great players on offense,” he said. “We’re not taking anything away from what they can do, but we made some mistakes and took some bad angles against their running back and he scored four touchdowns on us.”
Arizona Western’s Damien Williams, the NJCAA’s leading rusher, scored from 53 and 68-yards on the ground and added two more after teaming with Cameron Coffman for two receptions in the fourth.
So how does one prepare for a team that averages 50 points a game on the year? For the Lions, that type of competition is in their own backyard.
“Week in and week out, we play very good teams from Mississippi,” Collins said. “The competition here is the best on the country. Kids play hard every week.”
Several times this season, games have gone to the wire including against Gulf Coast in the season opener 34-30, Northwest 45-42 and Northeast 63-35 just to name a few.
Former West Point prep-star Jeremy Cannon’s interception in the first half led to a touchdown and 27-0 lead for the Lions. That, Collins says was a huge pick.
“It was big for us, one of the biggest plays in the first half defensively,” he said. “I was very pleased with the defensive backs. Very young group, but they played great. They knew what they’re supposed to do.”
The interception was Cannon’s third on the season, another stat that could help him move on to the next level in college football. Collins said there are several Division I teams around the region who are interested including Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama.
“He’s always around the football,” said Collins of Cannon and his ability to just be everywhere on the football field. “You don’t see it that much anymore.” Along with three picks, Cannon also has two fumble recoveries for 122-yards and one forced fumble.
Collins said although they will be without Cannon’s experience and work ethic next season, they won’t have any trouble filling the role with three starters returning including West Point’s Justin Cox who led the team with five interceptions this season.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for me to build on to try and pick up where we left off from this year,” he said.