SCOOBA – With kickoff to the 2019 junior college football season less than three months away, the reigning national and state champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College have earned a No. 2 preseason national ranking in the initial juco football poll of the upcoming campaign produced by Street & Smith's 2019 College Football preview magazine.
Compiled by college football sportswriter Charles Power, of JUCOInsider, for the nationally distributed college football magazine that is currently available in stores and on newsstands nationwide, Street & Smith's Top 25 preseason rankings considered all of the nation's two-year schools that currently compete in football within the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) or the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).
Along with Power's brief introductory article entitled, "East Mississippi Adds One for the Thumb," the magazine previews the nation's predicted Top 10 junior college football teams for the upcoming season. Leading the way at the top of the preseason rankings is Iowa Western Community College followed by EMCC at No. 2 and last year's national championship game runner-up Garden City (Kan.) at the third spot. Hutchinson (Kan.) and Blinn (Texas) round out Street & Smith's preseason Top 5. Also representing the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) in the Top 10 are Copiah-Lincoln and reigning state runner-up Jones College at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively. Fellow MACJC foes Northwest Mississippi and Hinds are respectively listed among the "Best of the Rest" at 12 and 19.
Street & Smith's two-page magazine spread also includes listings of the country's "2019 Juco Super Sophomores" and "Top Juco Players Moving on to FBS" heading into the upcoming football season. For East Mississippi, the publication singled out 2018 NJCAA All-American and Ole Miss signee Dontario Drummond as one of two standout junior college wide receivers moving on to the next level. In addition, University of Tennessee signee Darel Middleton is listed as one of the top juco defensive linemen headed to an FBS school, along with Sam Williams of Northeast Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Co-Lin's Taijh Alston (West Virginia).
Winners of five national championships over the last eight years (2011, '13-14 & '17-18), including back-to-back NJCAA titles twice, the EMCC Lions are seeking to join six-time NJCAA champions Butler (Kan.) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for the most all-time football team championships in NJCAA history. The two-time defending national champs will also look to secure an unprecedented third consecutive NJCAA football championship. Additionally, the three-time reigning MACJC state champions, who also previously claimed state titles during the 2009, '11, '13 and '14 seasons, will bid to become the first MACJC program since Pearl River (2003-06) to capture four consecutive state football championships.
Showcasing an overall 11-year head coaching record of 110-13 (.894), including an eight-year composite record of 86-5 (.945) dating back to the 2011 season, East Mississippi's Buddy Stephens will open the 2019 campaign tied for sixth place among the NJCAA's winningest active head football coaches. The three-time NJCAA Football Coach of the Year recipient also ranks as the NJCAA's all-time leader in career winning percentage for head football coaches with at least 100 career games coached.
EMCC's nine-game, regular-season 2019 football schedule is set to kick off with an Aug. 29 road outing at Hinds followed by home contests against Pearl River (Sept. 5) and Itawamba (Sept. 12). A Sept. 19 road trip to Mississippi Delta will precede home encounters with East Central (Sept. 26) and Northwest Mississippi (Oct. 3) at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field. The final third of the Lions' regular-season slate will consist of MACJC North Division road meetings with Holmes (Oct. 10) and Coahoma (Oct. 17) before they play host to Northeast Mississippi on Saturday, Oct. 26, during Homecoming 2019 on the Scooba campus.