SCOOBA, Miss. - The 16th-ranked East Mississippi Lions moved one step closer to claiming the 2008 MACJC North Division football title by shutting out Northeast Mississippi, 49-0, on the road Thursday evening at Keenum Stadium in Booneville.
In posting their first shutout since blanking Northeast Mississippi, 21-0, on the road in 2000, the Lions moved to 6-1 overall with their fifth consecutive victory and 4-0 in divisional play.
EMCC freshman quarterback Randall Mackey once again ignited the nation's top-ranked passing offense by connecting with Meridian's Montrez Mosley on a 10-yard scoring pass and then hitting Wayne Bonner from 39 yards out to give the visitors a 14-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter. From Milledgeville, Ga., Bonner's scoring grab - his lone catch of the game - marked his team-leading sixth touchdown reception of the season.
Northeast, now 0-7 overall and 0-4 in North Division play, managed to reach the red zone only twice during the contest. The Tigers' best chance of reaching the end zone came late in the first quarter when they drove to EMCC's 20-yard line, before West Point's Alex Hill nabbed his third interception of the year at the 2-yard line and returned it 20 yards. The Lions wasted little time ringing up their third touchdown of the night. Mackey found Starkville's Mike Outlaw and Gulfport's Stephon Johnson for 22 and 53 yards, respectively, through the air, before taking it in himself from four yards out on the ground.
Northeast's only other trip to the red zone on the night came as a result of a penalty-filled drive early in the second quarter. Including a roughing the punter penalty and offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, the Tigers scratched and clawed to EMCC's 17-yard line only to be stopped on a fourth-and-two attempt. Following a subsequent three-and-out Northeast possession, Mackey engineered a quick-striking, three-play scoring drive which consisted of a 13-yard completion to Mosley, an 11-yarder to fellow Meridian native A.J. Brown, and ultimately with a 29-yard touchdown toss to Leon Berry of Griffin, Ga. Mackey's third touchdown pass of the half and 15th of the season gave the visitors a comfortable 28-0 halftime advantage.
In one half of play, Mackey went 14-of-19 via the air for 251 yards and three scores. The 2007 PARADE All-American from Bastrop (La.) High School gave way to sophomore signal-caller Perry Trammell of North Panola High School fame in the second half. The Sardis native picked up where Mackey left off by marching the Lions 65 yards on seven plays in their opening possession of the half. With Trammell connecting on all five pass attempts during the drive, he would find Brown for a 7-yard scoring pass with 9:53 left in the third quarter. Immediately following the ensuing kickoff, East Mississippi made it 42-0 when freshman defensive end Claude Davis picked off Jeremy Yates' first pass attempt of the night and rumbled 18 yards for the score.
Meridian freshman running back Cedrick Blanks capped the Lions' productive offensive performance - the third time this season they've scored 47 or more points in a contest - by scoring on a 1-yard plunge at the 12:32 mark of the fourth quarter.
With Trammell connecting on his first dozen aerials and finishing the contest with 12-of-13 passing for 132 yards and one touchdown, EMCC's quarterbacking tandem combined for 26-of-32 efficiency through the air to account for 383 yards and four touchdowns.
Now with 13 interceptions on the year as a team, EMCC had four picks on the night against Northeast. Reserve freshman corner back Lathan Hughes of West Oktibbeha High School had his first interception of the year, while Starkville's Anthony Hines collected his team-leading fourth interception of the campaign late in the contest.
In recording their largest victory margin since claiming a 58-7 triumph at Coahoma in 1980, the Lions limited Northeast to 14-of-36 passing for just 98 yards with four interceptions. The Tigers were also held to 74 yards on the ground in 27 attempts.
Bidding for the school's first state playoff appearance since 1984, coach Buddy Stephens' East Mississippi Lions take on Itawamba on Saturday, Oct. 18, in West Point.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at West Point High School. Looking to clinch the North Division title with a win against the ICC Indians, the Lions are slated to don Mossy Oak camouflage jerseys during their West Point outing.