East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens knows there are two distinct types of turnovers.
“Some people create turnovers,” Stephens said. “Some people create their own turnovers.”
EMCC (3-1) has been particularly victimized by the latter so far this season — fumbled handoffs and bad decisions leading to ugly interceptions.
On Thursday, the fifth-ranked Lions host East Central (3-1), which forced four turnovers last week against Pearl River. So Stephens has been further stressing in practice the importance of securing the ball in practice.
“Sometimes as a coach, you emphasize holding onto the ball,” Stephens said. “You emphasize not throwing it to the other guy. You’ve just gotta have good practice habits, and that’ll help you to keep from doing that time after time.”
EMCC has turned the ball over eight times through its first four games, including quarterback Connor Neville’s pick-six that sealed the Lions’ season-opening loss to Hinds.
Those numbers have ensured that avoiding turnovers is still a big part of Stephens’ recipe for a win this week against the Warriors.
“We take care of us and what we do, and we don’t turn the ball over,” Stephens said. “We gotta get better at our blocking and tackling.”
The Lions haven’t had much trouble scoring, but East Central offers the best defense EMCC has seen all season. The Warriors have allowed 10 points per game and are coming off three straight wins, including consecutive shutouts of Southwest Mississippi and Pearl River.
“East Central’s a really good opponent,” Stephens said. “They’re a very disciplined team. They’re where they’re supposed to be. They line up where they’re supposed to be. They go where they’re supposed to be.”
Stephens has first-hand experience facing — and beating — the Warriors, owning a 3-0 career record against them, but last year’s contest in Decatur wasn’t easy. EMCC escaped with a 24-21 win on Josh Smith’s winning 19-yard field goal, keeping an undefeated season alive.
East Central boasts freshman quarterback Holman Edwards, who threw three touchdowns last week against Pearl River and whose play Stephens praised.
“He’s not gonna put them in a bad situation,” Stephens said. “He’s not gonna lose the game for them. He’s gonna do what he’s coached to do and he’s gonna do it very well. I think that’s a testament to their coaching staff, and that’s a testament to the kid. He understands his role in their offense, and that’s what makes him good.”
Combine a stingy defense, Edwards’ successful game managing at quarterback and the occasional misdirection — “they’ll get your eyes going one way and try to come back another way,” Stephens said — and East Central might just possess the formula to break EMCC’s 35-game home winning streak.
But Stephens, as always, isn’t worried about the Lions’ opponent Thursday. As long as EMCC improves, he said, he’ll be fine.
“We just want to make sure that we get better at us,” Stephens said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.