By Shawn Wansley
Jones College SID
ELLISVILLE – Run, run, run and run some more.
That's the plan of attack for the No. 7 Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters (9-2) as they prepare to face the No. 5 Jones College Bobcats (9-2) in Mississippi Bowl XI.
"They are a triple option football team," said Jones head coach Steve Buckley Wednesday afternoon. "They will run the option from every formation imaginable."
As a team, Eastern Arizona rushes for 268.6 yards per game, which is second in the NJCAA, and passes for only 31.0 yards per game for a total of 299.6 yards per game.
The game will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The contest will air on www.jcjc.tvand the Jones College Facebook Live page with Mark Easley and Luke Johnson on the call.
School was out at Jones for Thanksgiving week. The Bobcats took the entire week off and reported back to campus on Sunday.
Buckley said the team has been in good spirits this week in preparation for the bowl game.
"We had a great week off," he said. "It was good to get away from them and probably good for them to get away from us. But Thanksgiving is over and we've had two really good days of practice. The kids are excited about playing in a bowl game."
In Jones' last game, the Bobcats dropped a heartbreaking, 19-14 contest to No. 1 East Mississippi in the MACJC championship contest.
Buckley said the bowl game provides an opportunity for Jones to end the season on a high note.
"The two things we have talked with the team about and the reasons we want to play in this game are, number one, we did not want the season to end in the state championship game the way it did," he said. "That's over with. And this is a chance for us to get to 10 wins and that is very important. In NCAA Division I football as of right now, there are 18 teams with 10 wins out of 128. In junior college, there are only three teams with 10 wins.
"To put ourselves in the top 10 or 15 percent of the country by getting to 10 wins is very important to our program. I don't know why 10 wins is the magic number, but it's kind of one of those underlying things that when you get to 10 wins, you are pretty darn good. I would like to see this program get to 10 wins. The opportunity to do that is very important to us."
Buckley said the bowl game is a reward for the players.
"This bowl game is for the kids and we want to make it fun for them," he said. "It is hard to get excited about a game where you are not playing for the whole thing, but the kids have taken a great approach to this game. They are excited about playing in another ballgame.
"To be able to go down on Friday for the banquet, have a fun day on Saturday and get ready to play on Sunday will be a very rewarding weekend for the kids."
Buckley said the team is preparing well for the game, but it has not been as stressful as normal.
"We've tried to make practice a little more fun," he said. "Maybe working some kids on offense that play defense and working some kids on defense that play offense – that type of thing. But we will not do anything different for the game.
"We will just do what we normally do and get ready for this one like we have the last 11 games."
Buckley said the Gila Monsters will provide a stern test for the Bobcats.
"They are a heckuva football team," he said. "They had big wins over Arizona Western and Snow (Utah). They have done a great job of recruiting and coaching."
To say Eastern Arizona relies on the run would be an understatement.
The Gila Monsters have only completed 16 passes in 52 attempts for 341 yards and three touchdowns – and that's for the entire season. Their leading passer – Ishois Times – is 6-of-24 for 106 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the season. Times is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore from Sanford, North Carolina.
On the other hand, running back Wilber Cooper tops the Gila Monsters on the ground with 827 yards and 11 touchdowns. Cooper is a 5-foot-9, 225-pound sophomore from Auburndale, Florida. Running back Xavian Hampton has 395 yards rushing and six scores and Times has carried for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Hampton is a 5-foot-10, 240-pound sophomore from Hitchcock, Texas.
Cooper is the leading receiver on the team with five receptions for 55 yards. Quandre Mosely has four catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore from Brunswick, Georgia.
Eastern Arizona averages 30.2 points per game.
On defense, the Gila Monsters have several standouts.
Linebacker Sharrod Frazier tops the team in tackles with 102 and has 10 tackles for loss. He is a 6-foot, 195-pound freshman from Brunswick, Georgia. Damarkus Robbins, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound freshman linebacker from Columbus, Georgia, has 97 tackles and three sacks. Micah Stallworth, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore lineman from Albertville, Alabama, has 73 tackles, 13 sacks and 10 TFLs. Mosely has five interceptions.
Eastern Arizona allows only 106.4 yards rushing, 142.9 yards passing and 249.3 yards per game in total offense. They are 10thin the nation in total defense. They allow 16.3 points per game.
'Defensively, they are very, very athletic in the back end and at linebacker," Buckley said. "They are very physical up front. In the kicking game, they are very solid and very athletic. It's going to be a challenge for us."
The Bobcats are a very balanced team, rushing for 184.1 yards, passing for 193.5 yards and posting 377.6 yards per game. Jones scores 33.9 points per game.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett (Blackshear, Georgia) has completed 137-of-240 passes for 1,707 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Running back Kalyn Grandberry (Memphis, Tennessee) has rushed for 1,254 yards and nine touchdowns. He is fifth in the nation in rushing. Running back Donte Edwards (Mobile, Alabama) has 525 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
The Bobcat offensive line is anchored by All-Region 23 and All-MACJC first-team guard Christian Barnes (Ocean Springs) and All-MACJC second-team guard Malcolm Miller (Warren Central).
Wide receiver Immanuel Jones (Amory) has 47 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns. Johnquarise Patterson (Pearl) has 27 catches for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Natorian Watts (Petal) has 20 catches for 260 yards and two scores and wide receiver Nataurean Watts (Petal) has 15 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Jones allows 110.4 yards per game on the ground, which is 15thin the nation, and 157.2 yards per game through the air. They give up 267.5 yards per game, which is 13th in the nation. The Bobcats allow 19.5 points per game.
Linebacker Nick Anderson (Vicksburg) leads the team in tackles with 66 and has eight TFLs.
Defensive end Chei Hill (Miami, Florida) leads the nation in TFLs with 36 and is fourth nationally in sacks with 14. He has 58 tackles. Linebacker Daylen Gill (Louisville) has 56 tackles and 18 TFLs. Safety Fred Peters (Columbia) has 48 tackles and an interception and safety Jonathan Haynes (Ray Brooks) has 39 tackles and two interceptions.
Tackle DaShawn Crawford (Bay Springs) has 35 tackles and 12.5 TFLs and end Marquez Bembry (Atlanta, Georgia) has 30 tackles and 4.5 TFLs. Cornerback Jamar Richardson (Aliceville, Alabama) has 27 tackles and linebacker Davis Harrison (Lamar School) has 25 tackles.
Placekicker Cristofer Thompson (Adams County Christian School) has accounted for 71 points, which ranks fifth nationally. Punter Greg Hayden (Vicksburg) averages 39.0 yards per kick, which is ninth in the country.
Buckley expects a quality game between two teams from different parts of the country.
"I think It is a good matchup and I think they feel the same about us," he said. "I have had a lot of correspondence with their head coach (John O'Meara) and he seems like a great guy. I recruited out at Eastern years ago, so I have been out there.
"We always keep up with each other on the internet, so to see how we stack up against each other is going to be interesting."
In addition to getting ready for the Mississippi Bowl this week, Buckley and his coaches have been busy recruiting and meeting with senior college coaches.
The early NCAA football signing period starts on Dec. 19 and as many as 20 Bobcats could be headed to the next level.
"This is probably the craziest week of my coaching career," Buckley said. "We are trying to recruit for our college next year, we are trying to help our kids who are ready to graduate in December find homes for next year and we are trying to get ready for a bowl game. So, it's a lot of balls to juggle right now.
"But that's what we do. We are wearing three different hats right now and it's hard, but it's OK. We have a good staff and everybody is working together."
This will be the first bowl game for the Bobcats since 2004 when they lost 18-14 to Blinn College (Texas) in the Golden Isles Bowl in Georgia.
Mississippi Bowl XI
A.L. May Stadium
No. 5 Jones College (9-2) vs. No. 7 Eastern Arizona (9-2), 2 p.m.
Admission:$10 adults, $7 students. Chairback seats are $20 and available on Jones College side of stadium. Game day ticket gate opens at 11 a.m. Tickets may also be purchased at www.mississippibowl.com.
Webcast: Game airs on www.jcjc.tvand the Jones College Facebook Live page.
JONES COLLEGE (9-2)
W, Coahoma, 44-0
L, Holmes, 23-25
W, Hinds, 28-25
W, Mississippi Gulf Coast, 16-13
W, Southwest, 51-21
W, Pearl River, 48-7
W, Northeast, 40-27
W, Copiah-Lincoln, 28-23
W, East Central, 45-20
W, Northwest, 36-34
L, East Mississippi, 14-19
EASTERN ARIZONA (9-2)
W, Pima (AZ), 21-0
W, Air Force Prep, 34-30
L, Arizona Western, 13-16
W, Glendale (AZ), 29-12
W, Mesa (AZ), 49-26
W, Phoenix (AZ), 42-10
W, Scottsdale (AZ), 28-27
W, Arizona Christian Univ. JV, 45-13
L, Pima (AZ), 26-28
W, Arizona Western, 21-0
W, Snow (UT), 24-17
JONES COLLEGE BOWL GAME ITENERARY
5:30 p.m. – Mississippi Bowl XI Press Conference at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Hospitality and Resort Management Center, City Line Café, on MGCCC Jeff Davis Campus.
6 p.m. – Teams arrive for banquet at MGCCC Hospitality and Resort Management Center.
6:30 p.m. – Dinner. South Alabama head coach Steve Campbell will be guest speaker.
10 a.m. – Practice at Biloxi High School Stadium.
3 p.m. – Visit Dream Program in Ocean Springs.
11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Hospitality Tent opens (invitation only)
11 a.m. – Ticket Gate opens
1:30 p.m. – Pre-game activities
1:45 p.m. – Coin toss
2 p.m. – Kickoff
Halftime – Entertainment
Post-game Awards – On-field Trophy and MVP presentations/Presentation of Mississippi Bowl Player of the Year.
JONES COLLEGE BOWL HISTORY
- 1955, Junior Rose Bowl (California) – Lost 22-13 to Compton College (California)
- 1977, Junior Rose Bowl (California) – Lost 38-9 to Pasadena City College (California)
- 1978, Garland Bowl (Texas) – Lost 30-0 to Kilgore College (Texas)
- 1981, East Bowl (North Carolina) – Lost 27-14 to Chowan College (North Carolina)
- 1983, East Bowl (Ellisville, Mississippi) – Won 34-14 over Harford College (Maryland)
- 1984, Roaring Ranger Bowl (Texas) – Won 44-14 over Ranger College (Texas)
- 1993, Texas Shrine Bowl (Tyler, Texas) – Tied 20-20 vs. Navarro College (Texas)
- 1998, Golden Isles Bowl (Georgia) – Won 42-35 over Georgia Military College
- 2002, Heart of Texas Bowl (Copperas Cove, Texas) – Lost 33-22 to Trinity Valley (Texas)
- 2004, Golden Isles Bowl (Georgia) – Lost 18-14 to Blinn College (Texas)
- 2018, Mississippi Bowl vs. Eastern Arizona
Bobcat DT DaShawn Crawford (36) moves in for a play vs. East Mississippi.
Jonathan Haynes (3) carries the ball for the Bobcats vs. East Mississippi.