SCOOBA – Pitting the most recent junior college football champions head-to-head for this year's national title, the 2018 NJCAA eTeamSponsor Football National Championship game will feature the top-ranked and reigning national champion Lions of East Mississippi Community College against the second-ranked and 2016 national champion Garden City (Kan.) Community College Broncbusters on Thursday, Nov. 29 in Pittsburg, Kan. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT at Carnie Smith Stadium on the campus of Pittsburg State University.
CBS Sports Network, the 24-hour home of CBS Sports, is set to air this year's national title game between EMCC and GCCC to mark the first time an NJCAA national championship game will be nationally televised live. Jeff McCarragher is set to call the play-by-play action and former NFL defensive lineman Brandon Noble will provide the color commentary for CBS Sports Network.
Guided by two-time NJCAA Football National Coach of the Year and seven-time NJCAA Region 23 Coach of the Year Buddy Stephens with an 11-year coaching record of 109-13 (.893), the four-time national champion EMCC Lions (11-0) bring a 16-game winning streak into this year's national championship game after claiming their seventh MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 championship in 10 years with a hard-fought 19-14 road victory over previously No. 4-ranked Jones College in this year's MACJC state championship game played on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Ellisville. East Mississippi became the first MACJC member school to win the state junior college football title as many as three straight years since Pearl River CC captured four consecutive MACJC football crowns (2003-06). Currently tied for sixth place (with Iowa Western's Scott Strohmeier) among the NJCAA's winningest active head football coaches while also ranking as the NJCAA's all-time leader in career winning percentage for head football coaches with at least 100 career games coached, EMCC's Stephens previously served as an assistant coach/offensive line coach for the PRCC Wildcats during their successful run of MACJC state titles before being hired as the Lions' head football coach in December 2007.
In becoming the first MACJC member school to earn four national football championships (2011, '13, '14 & '17), as recognized by the NJCAA, with last year's 31-28 victory over No. 2 Arizona Western in the Mississippi Bowl, the EMCC Lions are chasing all-time NJCAA football title leaders Butler (Kan.) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, which own six national championships apiece. With previous consecutive NJCAA football crowns collected in 2013 and 2014, East Mississippi is looking to become the second NJCAA member school (Butler in 1998-99 & 2007-08) to claim back-to-back national football championships on two separate occasions.
Statistically heading into Thursday's national title game, East Mississippi is ranked fourth nationally averaging 41.5 points per game on the year with the nation's 12th-rated offense at 417.7 yards of total offense per contest. The Lions' well-balanced offensive attack is averaging 240.6 passing yards and 177.1 rushing yards an outing for the season. On the other side of the ball, EMCC's vaunted defensive unit has been making headlines all year long as one of the nation's stingiest stopper squads by limiting opponents to an NJCAA-leading 11.4 points per game. Along with ranking fifth nationally in both total defense (215.2 yds/gm) and passing defense (126.9 yds/gm) as well as ninth in rushing defense (88.3 yds/gm), the Lions stand second among all NJCAA teams with 47 quarterback sacks and are tied for 10th nationally with an MACJC-high 17 pass interceptions.
Individually for East Mississippi, Notre Dame transfer running back Deon McIntosh (Pompano Beach, Fla.) ranks sixth nationally with 1,081 rushing yards as the Lions' third 1,000-yard rusher during the Buddy Stephens era. With six 100-yard rushing efforts over his last seven games, the MACJC North Division's 2018 Offensive Back MVP also stands second among the NJCAA's statistical leaders (behind Garden City's Dedrick Mills) with 17 rushing touchdowns and 102 points scored on the year. Through the air, sophomore Dontario Drummond (Laurel) is on the verge of becoming EMCC's most prolific wide receiver during the Stephens era as one of the nation's top pass catchers. Already atop the school's list (since 2008) with 21 career touchdown receptions, the All-Region 23 performer needs five catches and 37 receiving yards against Garden City to ascend to the top of those respective EMCC career statistical charts (since 2008). With 89 career catches for 1,427 receiving yards, Drummond is presently tied for third among the NJCAA ranks this season with 11 touchdown grabs along with ranking seventh nationally with 818 receiving yards and ninth with 52 catches.
Defensively for the Lions, All-Region 23 defensive end and two-time MACJC Defensive Player of the Week Everitt Cunningham (West Point) is tied for fifth among the NJCAA's individual leaders with 13 quarterback sacks on the year. In addition, sophomore cornerback JaQuez Akins (Starkville) is tied for third nationally with 183 return yards on a team-leading four pass interceptions this season, including pick-sixes of 79 yards against Northwest Mississippi and 30 yards versus Pearl River as well as a 59-yard interception return in EMCC's state championship victory over Jones.
Guided by fourth-year head coach and 2018 KJCCC Coach of the Year Jeff Sims, who was recently named as the new head football coach at NCAA Division II member Missouri Southern State University, the second-ranked Garden City Broncbusters are 10-0 on the season after capturing their second outright Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference title in three years with a 22-10 home victory over Butler on Nov. 10. With a 32-12 composite record under Sims' leadership, Garden City claimed the 2016 NJCAA national championship with a 25-22 win over Arizona Western in the El Toro Bowl played in Yuma, Ariz.
Boasting the nation's top offensive rushing attack with an average of 307.6 rushing yards per game and an NJCAA-best 37 rushing touchdowns this season, Garden City owns the distinction of touting the top two rushers among the nation's junior college ranks. KJCCC Offensive Player of the Year Charles West leads the NJCAA with 1,382 rushing yards on 229 carries (6.0 yds/att), while running mate Dedrick Mills follows close behind with 1,358 yards via the ground on 236 totes (5.8 yds/att), including an NJCAA-best 19 rushing touchdowns.
As a team, the GCCC Broncbusters are averaging 36.1 points per game (14th in the NJCAA) offensively, while allowing an average of 17.4 points an outing (12th in the NJCAA) defensively on the year. In addition, Garden City ranks 17th nationally in total offense (402.9 yds/gm) and 15th in total defense (271.8 yds/gm).
CBS Sports Network is widely available through all major cable, satellite and telco distributors as well as via OTT streaming service providers YouTube TV, fuboTV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV and Hulu. For more information, including a full programming schedule and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to www.cbssportsnetwork.com.
Thursday's 2018 NJCAA eTeamSponsor Football National Championship game will also be broadcast live by WFCA-FM 107.9 (online at wfca.fm) out of French Camp, Miss. Jason Crowder and Glen Beard are slated to describe all of the exciting play-by-play action.
David Rosinski | Sports Information Director
East Mississippi Community College