Bobcats entertain two-time defending national champion and No. 7 EMCC Thursday

Bobcats entertain two-time defending national champion and No. 7 EMCC Thursday

News release from JCJC Athletics

ELLISVILLE – The Jones County Junior College Bobcats will face quite a challenge this week.

The Bobcats host the two-time defending NJCAA champion and 7th-ranked East Mississippi Community College Lions at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field. The game will air on and WLAU-FM, 99.3.

JCJC enters the game at 2-3, while the Lions are 4-1.

"It will be a tough game for us," said JCJC head coach David Thornton. "They are a good team and we will have to play well to have a chance to win. I think our kids will rise to the challenge and play to the best of their ability and that's all we can ask."

JCJC is coming off a 37-27 loss to No. 11 Mississippi Gulf Coast on Sept. 24, while the Lions whipped Itawamba 48-24 on Saturday.

In that game, EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens and the alternate official had a confrontation on the sideline early in the fourth quarter. The official was removed from the game and Stephens was asked to leave the field and ended up coaching the game from the press box. The Lions also had two players ejected from the game and they will not be able to play this week.

"I know they have some distractions in their camp this week," Thornton said. "Plus, they are coming off a short turnaround, as well. I know sometimes it's hard to prepare for a team with a short turnaround, so hopefully, we will have things to our advantage and make the most of the opportunity."

The Bobcats had some bright spots in last week's loss at Perkinston.

Wide receiver Carlos Burse had 12 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns and was named the MACJC Offensive Player of the Week. Receiver Logan Scott had three catches for 101 yards.

Quarterback Thad Miller completed 25-of-45 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns. But the Bulldogs returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

"We had a few big plays that helped us offensively," Thornton said. "Carlos had a great game and had some big plays for us. It was nice to see that. Logan had the big catch (a 79-yard reception to set up JCJC's first score). We moved the ball fairly effectively at times, but we were not as consistent as we need to be offensively.

"Thad played very well and threw for over 400 yards. But those two interception returns were the difference in the game. They really were not forced turnovers, either. The first one, the ball was a little wet and the ball was a little high. The DB was standing back there and it fell right into his arms. On the second one, we tipped it around instead of catching it cleanly and gave the guy an opportunity to pick it."

The Bobcat defense stepped up in the second half and held the MGCCC offense to only a field goal.

Defensive back Ramon Patton had 13 tackles, while linebacker Ty Hill had 12 tackles, recovered a fumble and had one tackle for a loss. End Markell Winters had 10 tackles and one tackle for loss, while linebacker Jahmaad Harrell had nine tackles. Tackle Johnkil Skipper had four tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, tackle Reginal Hamilton had three tackles, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss and end Tramond Lofton had three tackles and a tackle for loss.

For the season, Hill leads the MACJC and is sixth in the NJCAA in tackles with 59.

"Ty is a great young man," Thornton said. "He is a great leader for us. He's had double-digit tackles for us in every game. His consistency has been really good and we are glad to see him step up and have a great year. Ramon is another of those who has just gotten better every week. He is a physical player and we're excited about him. He is just a redshirt freshman.

"Defensively, once we kind of got a handle on things, we really settled in and played well. I thought our kids played very hard. We played lights out on defense in the second half and held them to three points."

Punter Patrick Ponder had another solid game, averaging 45 yards per punt on four kicks. He leads the MACJC and ranks third in the NJCAA with a 43.5 yards per kick average.

"Pat is doing an outstanding job," Thornton said. "He has a great leg and gets rid of the ball quickly. He can get you of some bad situations by flipping the field."

After MGCCC jumped out to a 7-0 lead, the Bobcats stopped the Bulldogs on its second possession. But JCJC was called for roughing the punter, MGCCC maintained ball possession and eventually scored another touchdown to make it 14-0.

"The big thing in the first half was the roughing the punter call that led to a score," Thornton said. "We were getting off the grass and they ended up scoring on that drive and that was a big swing."

After falling behind 37-14 in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats fought back and were within a two-point conversion of making it a one-score game with 5:00 left to play. But they could not convert and the Bulldogs held on for the win.

"We kept battling and fighting and we were still in it late, despite the two interception returns," Thornton said. "We played hard and gave ourselves a chance."

EMCC will bring some highly touted numbers into the game.

The Lions are first in the MACJC in scoring offense and defense. They average 53.2 points per game and allow just 16.4 points per game.

They are led on offense by quarterback Wyatt Roberts, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore from Louisville, who has thrown for 1,341 yards and 15 touchdowns. Running back D.J. Law, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore from Haines City, Florida, averages 89.4 yards per game on the ground. Wide receiver Allenzae Staggers, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore from Wilkinson County, has 24 catches for 283 yards and four touchdowns. He has also returned two kicks for touchdowns. Backup quarterback John Franklin III is a transfer from Florida State University.

Defensively, linebacker De'Arius Christmas leads the Lions in tackles with 49 and sacks with four. He is a 5-foot-9, 205-pound freshman from Warren Central. Defensive end DeShawn Tillman, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore from Bruce, has 24 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks. Tackle Marcel Andry, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound sophomore from New Orleans, has 18 tackles.

"They are a very athletic team on both sides of the ball," Thornton said. "They have great skill players and good linemen on both sides. They are a good team and they are playing well right now. It should be a good game."

The Lions also own wins over Southwest (69-20), Coahoma (69-0) and Northeast Mississippi (56-7). They had a 25-game winning streak snapped with a 31-24 overtime loss at Copiah-Lincoln on Sept. 3.

Even though the matchup with EMCC is not a division contest, Thornton hopes it can set the tone for the final three regular season division games vs. East Central, at Hinds and vs. Co-Lin.

"We've had a tough stretch of games," he said. "I think we've played well and I think if we keep improving and get better each week, we should still have a chance for the playoffs. We are still in the mix. We still play Hinds, Co-Lin and East Central and all of those are good teams. There is no telling what could happen.

"I like our group of kids and I like what we're doing. They work hard and it's a great group and I'm excited about going into battle with these guys."

The Bobcats will entertain East Central for Homecoming at 2 p.m. on Oct. 10. East Mississippi travels to Holmes on Oct. 8.