August 21, 2009 9:12:00 AM
SCOOBA -- One week from today the East Mississippi Community College football team will begin its 2009 season with a non-division matchup against Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson.
EMCC coach Buddy Stephens'' Lions enjoyed record-setting success last season en route to a Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College North Division title, the school''s first playoff berth since 1984, and a No. 10 national ranking in the final NJCAA / JC Football.com poll. The top-10 ranking was the first since 1963.
An explosive offense that was second nationally and averaged 474 total yards per game helped pave the way.
That offense is another reason the Lions have earned a No. 6 ranking in the 2009 NJCAA / JC Football.com Preseason Top 25.
Former Starkville Yellow Jacket running back Pat Shed was instrumental in EMCC''s success last season. He ended the 2008 season ranked 21st nationally in rushing, and he hopes to improve on those numbers to help the Lions take the next step.
With a grueling preseason camp and two-a-day workouts behind him, Shed looks forward to the opener next week and is focused on picking up where he finished his freshman year.
Shed was the Lions'' leading rusher and a second-team MACJA All-North Division pick. He rushed for 772 yards on 127 carries and 11 touchdowns.
"I''ve been playing running back since the seventh grade," Shed said. "I like to show everybody that even though I am not that big, I can run through tacklers."
Shed smiles when asked about the difference in his game from last year.
"I''ve gotten a lot faster and stronger and am able to hit the holes better and communicate with my lineman," Shed said.
EMCC assistant coach Tommy Ferrill, who serves as Shed''s position coach, said Shed adds an important dimension to the offense.
"We threw the ball a lot last year, but it was good to have Pat in the backfield to maintain balance," Ferrill said. "We spread out our offense and this opens up running lanes. This year, Pat is stronger and more mature and knows our offense. He is also a good receiver and a guy we can motion out on a linebacker and throw to."
Shed said he is determined to continue last year''s success and won''t be satisfied with anything less than a state championship and a trip to compete in the national championship game.
Shed has worked diligently in the offseason to be ready to do his part so the team can accomplish those goals. He said his improved strength will help make him a better blocker.
"Blocking is about position," Shed said. "If I get to a blocker quicker and set up, then I am in a better position for the block."
Ferrill said the time Shed spent working in the offseason on his blocking will make him a better player.
"Pat has a real good sense of how his blocks are going to turn out," Ferrill said.
As a starter last year, Shed believes his experience will be invaluable to the freshmen, and he relishes the opportunity to assist in their transition to the college level.
"I try to go out there with intensity and show the younger players by example," Shed said.