Preseason top-ranked EMCC Lions set for season football opener Thursday at Jones County

Staff Writer

Preseason No. 1-ranked in the NJCAA Top 20 for the fourth time in the last five years, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off the 2016 football season Thursday evening in Ellisville by taking on the Jones County Junior College Bobcats. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field on the JCJC campus.
While serving the second game of a two-game suspension that was handed down by the MACJC office prior to last year’s state playoffs for an on-the-field altercation during their 2015 season finale at Mississippi Delta Community College, the EMCC Lions will be without their returning sophomores from last year’s 8-1 team for Thursday’s season opener at JCJC. Ninth-year EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens will only have the services of his incoming freshman players and transfers from four-year universities during their season opener in Ellisville.
With three national championships in the last five years, the EMCC Lions will enter their 2016 season opener having won 52 of their last 55 games dating back to the 2011 campaign. Included in that ongoing span are separate winning streaks of 25 and 20 consecutive games.
EMCC’s Stephens owns the highest career winning percentage among all active NJCAA football coaches with an eight-year coaching mark of 76-11 (.874), including a 45-3 (.938) regular-season record against MACJC North Division opponents. Along with a school-first national championship in 2011 and back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014, the Lions have also claimed four MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 titles and seven MACJC North Division regular-season crowns under Stephens’ guidance since 2008.
Stephens owns a 5-1 career mark against Jones County, including last year’s 49-7 win in Ellisville on Oct. 1. Despite playing without six regulars due to injury and suspension a year ago at JCJC, including running backs Jacquez Horsley and DJ Law, EMCC compiled 437 yards of total offense (295 passing & 142 rushing) by the halftime break to maintain an insurmountable 42-0 halftime lead.
Prior to last year’s victory at Jones County, the Lions had claimed the previous four meetings with the Bobcats all in Scooba, including EMCC’s 55-0 homecoming win in 2014 and a 61-24 triumph over Jones in the 2013 MACJC state championship game played at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field. The Bobcats did hand Stephens his first EMCC loss with a 23-19 decision in Ellisville during Week 2 of the 2008 season.
Thursday’s season opener between EMCC and JCJC will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Charlie Winfield slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, and Glen Beard set to serve as the Lions’ sideline reporter. EMCC’s 2016 football radio broadcasts will also be carried live by SuperTalk Mississippi (WZKR-FM 103.3) out of Meridian as well as through EMCC’s campus radio station, WGTC-FM (92.7), originating from the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.