Selected to the national first-team units by the NJCAA and J.C. Grid-Wire this preseason, Mackey came out of the gates throwing with pinpoint accuracy in marching the Lions down the field on three straight scoring drives to open the contest. The reigning NJCAA Region 23 Offensive MVP finished the game with 30-of-41 passing for 407 yards and four touchdowns, along with 19 rushing yards on six carries, in just three quarters of play. Connecting with 10 different Lion receivers on the night, Mackey managed to compile 366 passing yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-35 accuracy through the air in the first half alone. The outing marked the second time in his EMCC career that Mackey has thrown for 400 or more yards in a game, trailing only his 441-yard performance in last year's 27-23 comeback road triumph over then-No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Despite playing on a soggy field following a pre-game shower, Mackey needed just six plays on the team's first possession to make the score 6-0 on a 27-yard scoring strike to Meridian's Marcus McQuarley at the 10:21 mark. The point-after-touchdown attempt was missed by Brett Spencer - the first of three failed PAT tries by EMCC on the evening.
After holding the Bulldogs to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, Mackey went back to work and needed just four plays to move the ball 65 yards and put the home team on top 12-0 on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Utica's Derrick Steele with 7:41 remaining. A 41-yard aerial from Mackey to Steele helped set up EMCC's second tally of the game. Spencer's PAT try was blocked.
A stubborn East Mississippi defense forced another three-and-out on the following series. Mackey proceeded to efficiently direct the Lions 71 yards on just five plays to reach the end zone for a third time in as many possessions. This time, EMCC's standout sophomore signal-caller found Lance Lewis from 25 yards out with 4:31 left in the opening period. Mackey connected with McQuarley for the successful two-point conversion to put the home team ahead by a 20-0 tally.
Following a pair of empty possessions by the Lions - one resulting in a turnover on a Mackey fumble near midfield - EMCC converted a takeaway of its own to mount a four-touchdown advantage. A play after Mackey was sacked on a fourth-and-one attempt in the red zone, freshman safety Izauea Lanier recovered a Holmes fumble caused by Lion cornerback Chris McFarland of West Point at the 26-yard line. Two snaps later, Mackey slashed his way for 26 yards to ring up his first rushing touchdown of the season. He hooked up with British Footman for a second straight successful two-point conversion to make the score 28-0 with 11:24 remaining in the half.
After failing to score on a missed 41-yard field-goal attempt by Jonathan Smith late in the opening period, Holmes got on the board in the second quarter. Backup quarterback O.J. Hughes hit receivers Simon Collier and David Hampton on pass plays of 22 and 34 yards, respectively, to help facilitate a 1-yard score by Wa'Javious Jones. Smith's extra-point attempt was true to cut the deficit to 28-7 and end the first-half scoring.
EMCC's potent offensive attack wasted little time following the intermission. Aided by Steele's 50-yard kickoff return to start the second half, sophomore Pat Shed weaved his way into the end zone from 17 yards out to record his fourth rushing touchdown of the campaign. Spencer's PAT made it 35-7 a minute into the half. Shed, a Starkville product, ended the night by registering his fifth career 100-yard rushing effort - second in three games this year - with 101 yards on a dozen carries.
While limiting the visitors to only 103 rushing yards on 29 carries and 172 yards on just 10-of-30 passing, including a pair of interceptions, the Lion defense set up the team's sixth and final score of the evening by forcing another three-and-out on the next series. Mackey capitalized on the excellent field position by finding sophomore Mitchell McCurry of East Webster High School in the left corner of the end zone for a 21-yard scoring strike. Mackey's fourth touchdown pass of the night made it a 41-7 contest with 10:16 left in the third quarter. Mackey now has eight scoring tosses on the year and 32 for his 13-game EMCC career.
In falling to 0-3 on the year, Holmes managed the game's only scoring of the final quarter, as Harry Peoples ran it in from 5 yards out with 12:31 left in the game to make the final score 41-14.
Coach Buddy Stephens' second-ranked EMCC Lions (3-0, 1-0 in MACJC North) conclude their three-game September home stand by welcoming 11th-ranked and reigning MACJC state champion Mississippi Gulf Coast to Scooba next Thursday (Sept. 17). Kickoff for one of Mississippi's most anticipated junior college gridiron matchups is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field.