SCOOBA — East Mississippi Community College sophomore quarterback Todd Mays feels like his team is getting better each week.
That is bad news for the teams on the second half of the EMCC schedule.
Top-ranked EMCC continued its path of destruction through the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges North Division on Thursday night with a 65-7 victory against Northeast Mississippi C.C. on a rain-plagued night at Sullivan-Windham Field.
“There has been great improvement (since the start of the season),” Mays said. “We get better each and every week. It’s really a blessing to be here and to play with these guys. We got something special going but we got to keep working real hard at it.”
EMCC (4-0, 2-0 division) won its 16th-straight game and its eighth in a row in division play. The Lions have won 21 of their last 22 games in division play. The last opponent to win a division game in Scooba was NEMCC, which won 49-42 in 2010.
Since then, the last four meetings in the series have gone to EMCC by a combined score of 236-42. The Tigers (1-3, 1-1) went nine straight quarters without scoring against the Lions until a touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
“The defense really came to play tonight,” EMCC sophomore free safety Allen Sentimore said. “A lot of people still talk about last year’s defense, but we got guys who can make plays on this team, too. Our job is to go out and create our own identity.”
EMCC had seven defensive touchdowns a season ago. The Lions had three Thursday night, as Sentimore (29 yards), Demetrius Cain (43 yards), and former Columbus High School standout Quan Latham (60 yards) had interception returns for scores. The defense also forced a safety and outscored the NEMCC offense 20-6.
“We really played with that edge tonight,” Latham said. “Everybody was flying to the ball and making plays. It is fun when everybody is doing the same thing like that.”
EMCC held NEMCC to -25 yards rushing on 26 attempts. The numbers were skewed by a season-high five sacks, including three by Dante Sawyer and two by DeShawn Tillman.
In the past three games, EMCC has allowed 5 rushing yards on 81 carries. Forty-one of the 81 rushing plays have gone for zero or negative yards.
“This defense is special,” Mays said. “They can be some mean boys over there. They are playing the type of defense that we have to have to be successful around here.”
EMCC scored on four of five first-quarter possessions and led 37-0 after one quarter. The Lions had no trouble on a night they committed the first three turnovers of the season (two interceptions by Chad Kelly and a lost fumble by Preston Baker) and continued a season-long trend of doubling the opponent in penalties (eight for 65 yards, compared to four for 30 yards for NEMCC).
“(Starting strong) starts in practice,” EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. “We feel like if we go fast in practice, we will go fast in games. If we go fast, we are going to do well. It’s a philosophy. Our guys are always ready to play when it comes out of the box.”
Kelly was 19 of 28 for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the nation with 15 touchdown passes. D.J. Law had two touchdowns receptions, while Camion Patrick and Kameron Myers each had one. Mays had both EMCC rushing touchdowns.
“The hard work is really paying off for this team,” Patrick said. “This program is all about winning, so you really have to step up and make plays. It doesn’t matter if you are new here or a veteran, you have go out and make big-time plays. On offense, we are getting things really cranked up.”
EMCC has had a touchdown by 10 receivers. When Mays tumbled in from 12 yards out, EMCC held a 51-0 lead with 2 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half.
For a second-straight week, the second half was played with the mercy rule in effect and a running clock. Still, EMCC scored twice, with Latham returning an interception and Mays capping his night at quarterback with a 22-yard touchdown run.
“There are a lot of expectations for this team, but we just worry about the game we are playing that night,” Law said. “We want to be the best we can be each Thursday night. If we can finish the week with a 1-0 record then we are satisfied. We always are here working hard to get better.”
EMCC will prepare for archrival Itawamba C.C. on Thursday night in Fulton. While NEMCC owns the last division win at EMCC, ICC owns the last division victory against EMCC at home, winning 24-23 in Fulton in 2012.
“We just have to keep working hard,” Mays said. “We have been here since the summer really busting it every day. At this point, we don’t really have any other choice.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.