East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens really liked the performance of quarterback Messiah deWeaver in the opening round of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) playoffs.
Stephens would like to see something similar from deWeaver two more times this season.
“Clearly the best game Messiah has played here,” Stephens said. “He showed what type of leader he can be. He was exceptional. Our offense has been looking for that extra notch of consistency this season. In the biggest game of the season so far, he was at his best. That’s a good thing for us.”
deWeaver was 28 of 34 for 275 yards Saturday in No. 1 EMCC’s 31-7 victory against then-No. 16 Copiah-Lincoln C.C. at Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, No. 1 EMCC (10-0) will play at No. 4 Jones College (9-1) for the MACJC State championship at Bobcat Stadium at Sim Cooley Field in Ellisville.
“There are so many parts to the offense,” deWeaver said. “Fortunately, all of those parts played well (against Co-Lin). This is the time of year you want to be playing your best. We know we got to keep putting in the work and keep getting these results.”
While this EMCC offense hasn’t lived up to the normal video-game type numbers produced by Stephens’ teams of the past, the 2018 squad is two wins away from its seventh MACJC State championship and fifth National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship.
deWeaver, a Michigan State transfer, will draw his sixth-straight start after EMCC lost Vijay Miller to a season-ending injury in the opening series of a 24-21 win at East Central C.C.
While deWeaver engineered a last-second victory in Decatur, he hasn’t come into his own until the last couple of weeks of the season. The 28 completions were a season-high, while the 275 yards was the most since 323 yards on opening day against Hinds C.C. He has thrown at least one touchdown in five-straight games, and has only thrown one interception in his last 100 pass attempts.
On the ground, Notre Dame transfer Deon McIntosh (969 yards, 16 touchdowns) continues to close in on becoming the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since the 2013 season. He is second in the nation in touchdowns.
McIntosh collected his fifth 100-yard rushing game against Copiah-Lincoln C.C., while Keon Moore had his second in the final regular-season game — a 26-7 win at Northeast Mississippi C.C.
“It’s just a little more attention to detail at this point in time in the season,” McIntosh said. “It’s been a long grind. Everybody just wants to win these final two games and finish the job. There is no turning back, so you give that one last push. This team is playing with a lot of confidence.”
The EMCC offense should get plenty of confidence from watching the defense play. The Lions have held half of their opponents to seven points or less.
“We just want to hold up our end of the deal,” deWeaver said. “Everybody knows how special our defense is. That is what has helped us become better on offense. Every day in practice we are going to get the best defense in the nation. That has to make you better.”
EMCC has scored 24 or more points in all 10 games and in 68-straight games dating back to the 2012 season.
Jones moved up two spots in the national rankings after a 36-34 victory against then-No. 5 Northwest Mississippi C.C. in the other MACJC playoff semifinal game.
Jones has won eight-straight games since a last-second, 25-23 Hail Mary loss to Holmes C.C. in the second week of the season.
“Best team we have played this season,” Stephens said. “We may have played our best game of the season (in the win over Copiah-Lincoln). We will have to do that again and more to win this Saturday.”
n In related news, EMCC sophomore Everitt Cunningham earned his second MACJC Defensive Player of the Week honor for his efforts against Copiah-Lincoln.
The sophomore defensive end recorded a season-high four sacks on three solos and two assisted sacks. He also forced a fumble and broke up a pass. Cunningham was credited with eight tackles on six solo stops and two assists. The Lions held the Wolves to 34 rushing yards and only 10 pass completions.
A product of West Point High School, Cunningham is third nationally with 13 sacks.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.