No. 6 EMCC Lions to kick off new football slate by hosting Copiah-Lincoln
Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022
SCOOBA – The preseason sixth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off the 2022 football season Thursday evening (Sept. 1) by playing host to the Wolves of Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC’s Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.
Thursday’s EMCC season opener against Co-Lin will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard slated to provide the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively. Chris Coleman is set to do the sideline reporting. The game’s live-streamed audio will also be carried 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. In addition, EMCC’s weekly live video-streamed football broadcasts will be available in HD at emcclive.com. Alternate audio streams of the radio broadcasts are also available at wfca.fm. The Lions own a 6-3 series advantage (3-1 at Scooba & 3-2 at Wesson) over Co-Lin dating back to the 2008 season under the direction of 15th-year EMCC head football coach Buddy Stephens. The two most recent head-to-head gridiron meetings have both resulted in 31-7 victories by the Lions. Last year’s contest was played in Wesson during Week 8 of the regular season, while the previous meeting was held in Scooba during the 2018 conference semifinals. EMCC went on to win the school’s seventh conference championship and ultimately claim a fifth NJCAA title that year. A season ago (Oct. 21, 2021) during the Lions’ 31-7 road win over Co-Lin at H.L. Stone Stadium, EMCC was directed by current Mississippi Valley State quarterback Jamari Jones, who threw for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-29 passing and also rushed for 65 yards on 13 attempts against the Wolves. His top receiving target on the night was current EMCC sophomore Josh Aka with five receptions for 65 yards, while EMCC had three players with 60 or more rushing yards in the contest. Defensively for the Lions, current EMCC sophomore linebacker Keyshawn Lawrence had a 19-yard interception return. The Co-Lin Wolves are guided by 19th-year head coach Glenn Davis, who owns the longest consecutive tenure of any current MACCC football coach and enters the 2022 season ranked eighth among the NJCAA’s active head football coaches with 94 career victories. Currently sitting one national title away from matching Butler (KS) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for the all-time NJCAA football record of six NJCAA Championships apiece, the five-time national champion EMCC Lions are looking to rebound from last year’s season-opening 42-41 overtime home setback to Hinds in the MACCC Semifinals. After posting the program’s fifth unbeaten regular-season football slate since 2011 and 10th division title in 14 years, EMCC completed the 2021 campaign with a 9-1 overall record and a No. 6 season-ending NJCAA Division I ranking.
Heading into the upcoming season, EMCC’s offense looks to be in solid shape with a pair of talented frontrunners competing for the starting quarterback position. University of Memphis transfer Peter Parrish and incoming freshman Eli Anderson from Neshoba Central High School have both adapted well to the Lions’ explosive, high-scoring offensive game plan.
Parrish, who initially signed with LSU coming out of Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., was a four-star prep prospect and was rated as the nation’s No. 10 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN in the class of 2019. Prior to redshirting the 2020 season at Memphis and appearing in three games for the Tigers last season, Parrish helped lead an undefeated Phenix City Central team to the 2018 Alabama Class 7A state championship as the title game’s MVP.
A year ago for Neshoba Central, Anderson completed 214-of-343 (62%) passes for 3,383 yards and 42 touchdowns, while also rushing for 433 yards and eight scores on 74 attempts, to collect MAC Class 5A All-State First Team honors. The Region 2-5A Offensive MVP was also selected to the Bernard Blackwell North/South All-Star Game.
East Mississippi’s talented receiving corps picked up a huge addition with the arrival of Marc Britt II from Ole Miss. Britt, a native Floridian and former University of Florida commit, was a four-star prospect coming out of Dade Christian School. He was rated as the nation’s No. 29 wide receiver and No. 191 overall prospect by ESPN in the class of 2020. Britt also figures to handle kickoff and punt return duties for the Lions.
EMCC’s top returning receiving targets figure to be Starkville’s Josh Aka and Taylorsville product Duke Miller. Aka led the 2021 Lions squad with 36 catches and 358 receiving yards, while Miller averaged 18.7 yards on 15 receptions with four touchdown grabs.
The Lions’ running game has also been bolstered with the conversion of former University of Alabama signee and Philadelphia High School two-way standout Kadarius Calloway from defensive back to running back. Fellow sophomore Amariyon Howard (Starkville) also looks to make an impact within EMCC’s backfield after a year’s experience with the Lions.
Expected to be protected by a quality offensive line led by returners Tre’Darious Griffin (Madison S. Palmer HS), KJ McCou (DeSoto Central HS) and Will Baggett (St. Martin/Starkville HS), EMCC’s rushing game looks to feature reliable depth with the additions of Mississippi Gulf Coast transfer Mike McGowan and freshman Kiron Benjamin (Laurel). A 2019 Class 6A MAC All-State First Team selection at Petal High School, McGowan was MGCCC’s second-leading rusher a year ago with 445 yards and a team-best five rushing touchdowns on 111 carries.
Possibly boasting a dominant defense on par with their previous championship-winning teams from 2018, 2014 and 2013, the EMCC Lions appear to be loaded up front. Returning out-of-state defensive linemen Elijah Davis (Wagener, SC) and Kason Boston (Birmingham, AL) along with in-state products Devonyal Lofton (Forest) and LaJoshua Jackson (Senatobia) are all receiving offers from FBS schools. Lofton, an NJCAA All-Region 23 selection for the Lions as a freshman, is EMCC’s leading returning tackler with 38 stops last year, including a team-high seven quarterback sacks.
EMCC’s defensive outlook became much brighter with the pickup of linebacker Rodney Groce Jr., who spent two years at Mississippi State before making a brief off-season stop at Arizona State. Groce was a three-star and top-30 prospect in the state of Alabama at Pleasant Grove High School.
The Lions also look to feature returning linebackers Keyshawn Lawrence (Starkville) and Steven Cattledge Jr. (Columbus).
EMCC’s defensive secondary figures to be headed by returning starters Kendarius Smith (Meridian) and Jamori Evans (Starkville) as well as fellow sophomore Laurence Sullivan Jr. (Vicksburg). Looking to make contributions as first-year defensive backs are Memphis natives Reggie Neely, a Tulane University transfer and Briarcrest Christian School product, and Tyler Woodard, a prior Mississippi State commit out of Freedom Prep Academy.
The Lions’ special teams will be comprised of returning long snapper Josh Ham (West Marion HS) along with first-year kickers/punters Cole Arthur (Leake Academy) and Trace Beard (Choctaw County HS).
EMCC’s Stephens returns to the sidelines in 2022 ranked second on the NJCAA’s all-time list for highest career winning percentage among coaches with 100 or more career games coached. With an impressive 13-season head coaching record of 125-18 (.874), Stephens has guided the Lions to five national championships, seven conference titles and 10 division crowns. He also currently ranks tied for 30th on the NJCAA’s all-time wins list and is fifth in Mississippi junior college football history.