An MACJC football championship will be on the line for the first time ever on the turf of Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field today (Saturday).
The fourth-ranked Jones College Bobcats will host No. 1 East Mississippi at 2 p.m. The game will air on www.jcjc.tv and the Jones College Facebook Live page with Mark Easley and Luke Johnson on the call. Tickets are $10 general admission and $7 for students. Jones students will be admitted free with proper ID. MACJC passes accepted.
The last time Jones hosted a state championship game was in 2002 in the final game played at Bush-Young Stadium, which was located in the center of campus where Jones Hall is now. The Bobcats dropped a 7-0 decision to Holmes in that contest.
Bobcat head coach Steve Buckley said everyone knows what is at stake.
“We are not going to disguise the magnitude of this game,” he said Monday morning. “It is a big game for everybody involved. Anytime you are playing for a championship, there is something extra on the line. It’s a tribute to our kids being such a young football team, with 41 freshmen, that we have matured to the point where we have put ourselves in position to play for a championship.”
The Bobcats enter the game at 9-1, riding an eight-game winning streak.
The Lions are 10-0 and have been ranked No. 1 in the nation since the NJCAA preseason poll was released in August.
Jones played EMCC twice last season and lost both times.
In the 2017 season opener, Jones led the Lions 28-14 in the third quarter and had ball possession, but ended up losing, 47-34.
The Bobcats hosted the Lions in the first round of the playoffs last year and dropped a 24-20 decision. In that game, Jones turned the ball over on downs four times in EMCC territory, lost a fumble at the Lion 20 and missed a 42-yard field goal.
Even though there are several different players on both teams, Buckley said the teams are familiar with each other.
“I told the kids last night that we have put ourselves in position for this,” he said. “This is the third time we’ve played them in two years. They are familiar with us and we are familiar with them. We are not going to change what we do and they are not going to change what they do. The only thing both teams will change this week will be signals and we’ve already started working on that.
“They have been the No. 1 team in the country for a year now. They have won a bunch over the last several years. They are very well-respected on the football field.”
Under head coach Buddy Stephens, the Lions have won MACJC championships in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and they have won national championships in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017.
Jones averages 35.9 points per game on offense and allows 19.9 points per game on defense. East Mississippi averages 43.1 points per game and allows only 11.1 points per game.
Jones is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Stetson Bennett (Blackshear, Ga.), who has completed 120 of 209 passes for 1,492 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has also rushed for 152 yards.
Freshman running back Kalyn Grandberry (Memphis) has rushed 208 times for 1,192 yards and nine touchdowns. Grandberry is fifth in the nation in rushing yards and sixth in rushing yards per game (119.2).
The Lions are led on offense by quarterback Messiah deWeaver, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound sophomore transfer from Michigan State University. He has completed 158 of 226 passes for 1,603 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Former Laurel High star Dontario Drummond, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore and Kalem Reddix, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore from Biloxi, are EMCC’s top receivers. Drummond has 46 catches for 686 yards and nine touchdowns. Reddix has 48 receptions for 435 yards and three scores.
“They are very balanced on offense with a lot of size and a lot of speed,” Buckley said. “They do a very good job on offense.”