EMCC faces Pearl River this weekend

SCOOBA – For the first time since 2010, the East Mississippi Community College football team will kick off the gridiron campaign on the road. Coach Buddy Stephens' eighth-ranked EMCC Lions travel to Poplarville to take on the Wildcats of Pearl River Community College Thursday evening in a non-division contest. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at PRCC's Dobie Holden Stadium.

Thursday's season opener will pit Stephens against former EMCC associate head coach/defensive coordinator William Jones, who was hired as Pearl River's head football coach following the Wildcats' 3-6 campaign a year ago. For the past dozen seasons, Stephens and Jones patrolled the same sideline – the past five seasons (2008-12) together at East Mississippi and the previous seven years (2001-07) as fellow assistant coaches at Pearl River Community College. Together, the successful coaching tandem most recently helped guide the EMCC Lions to the 2011 NJCAA National Championship and a pair of MACJC State Championships (2011 & 2009). Prior to that, the duo helped direct the PRCC Wildcats to the 2004 NJCAA national title in the midst of winning four consecutive MACJC State Championships (2003-06).

With a five-year composite record of 44-10 under Stephens' guidance as the NJCAA's sixth-winningest football program dating back to 2008, the 2013 EMCC Lions are also currently ranked fourth nationally in the JCGridiron.com Dirty Thirty team rankings as well as by JCFootball.com/JC Grid-Wire.

A year ago coming off their first-ever NJCAA national championship season in 2011, the Lions had extended their school-record winning streak to 20 consecutive games before dropping a 24-23 division decision at Itawamba in the 2012 regular-season finale. With four MACJC North Division regular-season titles to their credit under Stephens' guidance, last year's EMCC squad finished the campaign with an 8-2 mark following a heart-breaking 47-46 home setback to eventual state champion Copiah-Lincoln Community College in the MACJC state semifinals.

Stephens, who was a two-year letterman (1987-88) as an offensive lineman at Pearl River, owns a 3-1 career mark against his junior college alma mater. A year ago in a season-opening contest delayed two days because of the effects of Hurricane Isaac, top-ranked EMCC forced five PRCC turnovers to kick off the 2012 campaign with a 35-15 home victory over the Wildcats at Sullivan-Windham Field. The year prior during their national championship season, the 2011 Lions, ranked third nationally at the time, tallied three unanswered second-quarter touchdowns en route to posting a 41-17 road win over Pearl River in Poplarville. In 2010 at the original Sullivan-Windham Field, East Mississippi claimed a 42-36 homecoming triumph over 19th-ranked PRCC. During Stephens' first EMCC season in a playoff battle of ranked teams contested on the Scooba campus, No. 12 Pearl River bested the eighth-ranked Lions, 42-35, during the 2009 MACJC state semifinals.

Again this season, EMCC's football games will be broadcast live by WFCA-FM (107.9), out of French Camp, with Jason Crowder and Glen Beard set to describe the play-by-play action and John Lyle Briggs serving as the Lions' sideline reporter. EMCC's 2013 football radio broadcasts are also slated to be carried live by Meridian's WKZB-FM (95.1).

Throughout the season, EMCC's weekly live video-streamed football broadcasts (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/emcc-football) will be available in HD by accessing EMCC's athletics website, www.EMCCAthletics.com. An alternate audio stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at www.wfcafm108.com. In addition this week, the Lions' season opener at Pearl River will be the featured JUCO Weekly MACJC Football Game of the Week.

Following their season opener, the EMCC Lions will kick off their five-game home regular-season slate next Thursday (Sept. 5) by playing host to traditional rival East Central Community College. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field. The following Thursday (Sept. 12), the two-time reigning MACJC North Division regular-season champions will wrap up their non-division, regular-season ledger by entertaining Southwest Mississippi Community College in a 7 p.m. contest on the Scooba campus.

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