It's Jones vs. EMCC juggernaut Saturday
Ray Perkins has coached Alabama, the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Bucs, but the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer may never have faced a challenge quite like this one Saturday.
That’s when his Jones Junior College Bobcats will take the East Mississippi Lions for the state’s junior college championship.
East Mississippi, 10-0, has averaged 63.4 points and 620 yards per game. Coach Buddy Stephens’ powerhouse team has given up only six points per game. Just a glance at the Lions’ victory margins is scary: 49-6, 59-0, 69-0, 70-0, 90-7 — yes, 90-7! — 55-0, 59-0, 79-7, 59-13. That was all in the regular season.
In last week’s state semifinal game, EMCC defeated Mississippi Gulf Coast 45-28 after trailing for the first time all season, 7-0 after one quarter and 14-7 at halftime.
The East Mississippi roster is loaded with players headed Division I football powers. In fact, defensive end D.J. Pettway had a sack for Alabama in last season’s national championship victory over Notre Dame and is being re-recruited by schools across the country. EMCC players hold offers from virtually every national football power. Stephens expects “at least 11” of his sophomores to sign Division I football scholarships.
“You look at their stats and you say, ‘Oh my God,’” Perkins, who turned 72 Wednesday, said. “But that’s not the way we look at. I consider it a pleasure to have this opportunity and we are looking forward to it.
“We set our goals back in the first of August to be right where we are right now,” Perkins said. “We wanted to be in this game. And I can tell you that our goal setting was not just to get to be in the game. We had plans past that.
“At the same time, I’m fairly certain East Mississippi’s goal wasn’t just to make it to this game either. They have been the best team in our league — and in the country — the last several years. It’s a challenge, but that’s why we play the game.”
Jones comes into the game with a 9-1 record, spoiled only 24-20 home loss to Hinds on Oct. 10.
Jones defeated Itawamba 49-21 in last Saturday’s other semifinal game. For comparison purposes, EMCC swamped Itawamba 59-13 during the regular season.
Stephens expects a close, competitive game.
“They look like us,” Stephens says of Jones. “They run the spread on offense. They are a four-man front on defense. They’ve got good players and they are extremely well-coached.”
Stephens, who grew up in Alabama before playing junior college ball at Pearl River, is a long-time admirer of Perkins.
“He’s always been one of my heroes,” Stephens says. “I remember when he took Bear Bryant’s place at Alabama. He was a great player and then a great coach, just a phenomenal guy. At Jones, he’s got a great staff and he lets them coach.”
Stephens stops just short of calling this his best team at EMCC. His 2011 team finished 12-0 and won the national championship. If EMCC beats Jones Saturday, the Lions are expected to play Georgia Military for the 2013 national title.
“I will say our talent level is comparable to the 2011 team,” Stephens said. “But we’ve still got work to do. The thing about this team that separates them is they are such a joy to coach. They have a business-like attitude, both on and off the field. It’s been a blessing to coach these guys.”
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The Jones-EMCC championship will be video-streamed live (via UStream) and available through www.EMCCAthletics.com.