December 2, 2017 7:27:44 PM
Since it has been 36 months without a football national championship, players and coaches are ready to get to work at East Mississippi Community College.
No. 1 EMCC (10-1) faces No. 2 Arizona Western College (9-0) at 2 p.m. today in the 10th Mississippi Bowl. The contest will be played at May Memorial Stadium on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College campus in Perkinston.
"Our goal from the beginning of the season has been a national championship," EMCC quarterback Lindsey Scott, Jr. "You come to this program to play for championships. When you don't play in the big game at the end of the year, it's a disappointment. I know the guys who have been here for a while are hungry. We intend to make history."
Scott transferred from LSU during fall practice. He said he felt like playing for a top contender and vying for national championship would be fun but would also put him in a good position to transfer to a strong senior college program in 2018.
Scott has certainly held up his end of the deal. The Zachary, Louisiana native has thrown for 3,311 yards and 27 touchdowns. On the ground, former Lafayette County star Tyrell Price looks to become the program's third 1,000-yard rusher in the past 10 seasons with 54 yards today. Price leads the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) with 23 rushing touchdowns.
"It has been all about balance this season," EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. "The national championships teams (2011, 2013 and 2014) have had a powerful rushing game. Those teams had a back that could get you yards when you had to have them, when it was time to move the chains, it was going to get done. We feel like we have a great set of backs (Price, Scott, Ja'Mori Mark, Justin Connor and Reginald Hunter, Jr.). We are set there. The ground-game has been a difference-maker for us."
The ground-game should loom large again today against of the nation's best run defenses.
EMCC should be in its comfort zone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Lions have won all four previous appearances in the Mississippi Bowl and have won five bowl games under Stephens.
However, the squad will be looking to bounce back from a layoff. In its last outing nearly a month ago, EMCC defeated Northwest Mississippi Community College 67-66 in double overtime to win the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) state championship.
By winning the MACJC, EMCC earned its spot in the Mississippi Bowl. After a regular-season loss at Northwest, the Lions fell from first to seventh nationally. Four straight wins followed and that helped catapult the Lions back to the No. 1 spot.
"We feel fortunate," Scott said. "Everything worked out in our favor. We won't take this opportunity lightly."
Arizona Western won the Western States Football League this season. The Matadors are led by 1,000-yard rusher Greg Bell.
EMCC has won both career meetings between the schools. EMCC won 27-24 in the 2009 Mississippi Bowl and 55-47 in the 2011 El Toro Bowl, also for the national championship.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
2. MSU men improve to 8-0 COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Moorhead fills MSU coaching staff with three additions COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Smith working to improve CMSD facilities HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS