SCOOBA, Miss. - Following three close games decided by 10 collective points to start the year, the fourth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College bolted to a 38-0 halftime lead on the way to cruising to a convincing 48-7 home triumph over Itawamba in MACJC North Division football action Thursday evening at the New Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.
Entering the game ranked seventh nationally in team total offense, head coach Buddy Stephens' EMCC Lions outgained the visiting Indians, 574-151, in total offense and more than doubled ICC in first downs (25-12) on the night to move to 4-0 on the year for the first time since 1974. With their fifth straight series win over Itawamba, the Lions are now 28-8 overall and 18-2 in division play under Stephens' guidance dating back to 2008.
In the opening half, the Lions scored on all but one of their seven possessions, while the Indians were held to four three-and-out possessions through the first two quarters. After ICC's opening drive stalled at the Lions' 29-yard line, EMCC needed just a little over a minute to set the tone for the contest by going 66 yards on six plays to score first on Bo Wallace's 23-yard touchdown pass to current NJCAA Special Teams Player of the Week Rodney Davis at the 10:11 mark of the opening period.
A 24-yard field goal by EMCC's Taylor Walker with 6:21 remaining and a 1-yard burst by running back Rodriguez Moore with 5.6 seconds left increased the Lions' lead to 17-0 after the opening quarter of play.
Having established control of the game early with their nationally rated offense, the Lions essentially put the contest away with a 21-0 second quarter in which the EMCC defensive unit limited Itawamba to just six yards of total offense.
Sophomore wide receiver Lacoltan Bester got things started for the home team in the second quarter by snaring a Wallace pass over the middle and cutting left for a 35-yard touchdown reception with 8:16 remaining. Moore, a freshman back from Bastrop, La., followed four minutes later with a 27-yard scoring run that started right and ended with a dive just inside the left pylon at the 4:06 mark. Freshman reserve back Billy Shed, of Starkville, capped the first-half scoring with a 15-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield from Wallace with just 39.2 seconds left before intermission.
Itawamba's lone score of the night came on a 3-yard dart up the middle from quarterback Darren Daniel with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. The Indians fell to 0-4 on the season in dropping their divisional opener.
The Lions tacked on a 25-yard field goal from Walker - his fifth 3-pointer of the campaign in eight attempts - at the 12:03 mark of the fourth quarter, plus a 3-yard scoring run by Shed with 3:04 left, to give EMCC its biggest scoring output since last year's 49-14 victory at Coahoma.
Individually for EMCC, Wallace completed 26-of-37 passes for 329 yards, including three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The former Arkansas State transfer found 11 different receivers on the night, led by Bester's seven grabs for 86 yards and one touchdown. The former Kemper County product now has a team-high 25 receptions and four touchdown catches for the season.
With 210 rushing yards on 37 attempts as a team, the Lions' effective ground game was led by Moore's 92 rushing yards on 11 carries.
The EMCC Lions stay at home to welcome the Tigers of Coahoma Community College next Thursday (Sept. 29) in a divisional matchup set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the New Sullivan-Windham Field on the Scooba campus.