EMCC captures National Championship

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 9, 2017

East Mississippi Community College won its fourth NJCAA/Mississippi Bowl Title under coach Buddy Stephens with a 31-28 victory over Arizona Western College in Perkinson, Miss., on Sunday.
“We felt like we had a really good team the last couple of years, 15 and 16,” Stephens said. “This team was an over-achieving team. We had some players from Louisiana (wide receiver Kirk Merritt from Destrehan and quarterback Lindsey Scott from Zachary) and those guys did a fantastic job. We played a very good Arizona team, and 17 of their 22 starters have FBS offers already.”
Stephens, whose wife Robyn Douglas Stephens is from Bogalusa, said he felt his guys played super well, as far as maintaining discipline and fighting through adversity.”
“We played every play and that’s a tribute to them,” Stephens said. “This never gets old. Our guys fought through adversity throughout the year. We lost a defensive lineman, Tyone Clemons, to a wreck right after the MACJC championship game. He passed away. Our guys faced adversity all year long and they did a good job of fighting through it. I’m just very, very proud of them.”
Stephens said they played the championship game for Clemons.
“We kept him in our minds and in our hearts. They dedicated their practices and they dedicated the game to Tyone. He was a great kid. He always had a smile on his face,” Stephens said.
EMCC began the year with a 7-1 record and every game was lopsided.
They won their last four games by much closer margins of 10, four, one and three points.
The one-point win was the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges Championship game, a 67-66, double-overtime victory over Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“I think our last three games that we played, all three against top-seven teams in the country,” Stephens said. “We played a very tough schedule at the end, which helped us come up in the polls. When you beat the No. 7 team (Hinds CC), No. 6 (Jones) and No. 4 (Northwest) at the time, that’s what sprung us to No. 1 and allowed us to be the host team in the bowl game. All three of those games were tough and helped prepare us for this game.”
This was Stephens’ 10th season at EMCC. During that time, his teams have gone 98-13 (88.2 winning percentage), with four national championships. The other three titles came in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

East Mississippi Community College coach (middle) is pictured holding the championship trophy. He is flanked by EMCC President Dr. Tom Huebner (left) and NJCAA Executive Director Chris Parker (right).