Stephens leads EMCC to title

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, December 12, 2013

Prior to Buddy Stephens’ arrival at East Mississippi Community College in 2008, the program had not won a national or state championship. The school in Scooba, Miss., had made only one playoff appearance since it began fielding a football team in 1929.

Things have changed.

On Sunday the team captured its second NJCAA national title in three years with a 52-32 victory over Georgia Military College at Biloxi Indian Stadium.

Stephens, whose wife Robyn Douglas Stephens is from Bogalusa, said there are a lot of things that go into winning a national title.

“The main thing is recruiting great athletes and having them buy into our system and staying healthy,” Stephens said.

Stephens said he’s excited for his players.

“Our guys worked very, very hard for this title,” Stephens said. “We lost two games last year by a total of two points. That really stuck with our guys. It made them mad. They wanted to finish this thing. Our guys had a tremendous amount of resolve to finish this thing. They put in the extra hours and did the little things to help them win the national title.”

Last year the team lost two games, 24-23 and 47-46, both with fewer than 30 seconds left.

After having the two close losses last season EMCC won every game by lopsided margins this year. The Lions won every game by at least 17 points and held their first nine opponents to 13 or fewer.

EMCC averaged 609.3 yards per game offensively and had 7,312 total, an NJCAA record. The old mark was 7,181, set last season by Iowa Western Community College.

The Lions were second in the nation in passing (4,265) and fourth in rushing (3,047) and averaged 62 points per game.

Since taking over at EMCC, Stephens is 56-10.

EMCC, which finished 12-0 for the second time in three seasons, erased a 16-7 first quarter deficit, outscoring Georgia Military 17-3 over the rest of the half, and took a 24-19 lead to the break.

Georgia Military regained the lead, 25-24, then the Lions went back in front, 30-25.

From that point they outscored Georgia Military 28-13 in the second half.

Stephens said they have a very good alumni base to support the team.

Sunday the team also had a contingent of supporters from the Bogalusa area.