Lions have local ties

Published 4:45 am Friday, November 6, 2009


Item Sports Editor

SCOOBA — A pair of coaches with strong ties to Pearl River County have guided the East Mississippi Community College football team into the school’s history books.

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Lions head coach Buddy Stephens and his EMCC squad host Gulf Coast Saturday afternoon in the state junior college championships game. The winner of the game will be the host team for the second annual Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi next month.

Stephens is in his second season at the helm of the Lions, and both he and his assistant head coach and defensive coordinator William Jones spent seven seasons at Pearl River CC as assistant coaches under both Scott Maxfield and Tim Hatten.

Stephens is also a former Wildcat player under head coach Mike Nelson.

“We still have a deep felt love for that community down there as well as the River,” Stephens said. “That will always be home, but right now this is our home here as well.”

Stephens and Jones have guided the Lions to heights never achieved on the gridiron before at this school.

The Lions won the North Division for the second straight season, and are playing for their first ever state championship.

EMCC”s 9-1 record this season is a school record, and the 17-3 mark over the past two seasons is a high mark as well.

This year marked the first time in over 20 seasons that the Lions have recorded consecutive winning seasons.

“Both coach Jones and I learned so much from our time at the River, and we brought that winning foundation here with us,” Stephens added. “The administration here gave us the opportunity to come here and be a head coach, and we brought with us that winning attitude.”

The Lions beat Jones CC in the semifinals last week, setting up the state finals showdown.

Last season, PRCC finished second in the South and went to EMCC in the first round of the playoffs and beat the Lions before falling to Gulf Coast in the state finals.

“That was the toughest game I have ever been associated with,” Stephens said. “And we will play them in the regular season starting next year.”

Two time defending state champion Gulf Coast handed EMCC it’s only loss of the season, and the Lions have won six straight since setting up the rematch.

With both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, there is an outside chance that the loser of Saturday’s game will also get a chance to play in a bowl game.

“We can’t be focused on revenge, we just have to play our game and do what we do well,” Stephens concluded.