October 1, 2013 9:32:26 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
SCOOBA - While the East Mississippi Community College offense may awe fans, sometimes players can be taken aback in the same manner.
"When we are in the moment, sometimes it is hard to keep up," EMCC sophomore wide receiver Brandon Bell said. "Everything we do is so fast. Our job is to get to the right spot and to make plans. There are so many chances in a football game, if one play doesn't go to you, the next one probably will."
These days, life is good for the Lions.
Now rated No. 2 in the latest in National Junior College Athletic Association rankings, EMCC (5-0, 2-0 North Division) will face Holmes Community College (1-4, 1-2) in another North Division battle Thursday night.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Goodman.
Through the first five games of the season, EMCC has outscored its opposition, 337-13. EMCC celebrated Homecoming with a 90-7 win over Coahoma Community College Saturday in Scooba. In that win, EMCC matched a NJCAA national record for points scored in a game.
"It feels really good to be a part of the record," said Bell, who has 17 receptions for 268 yards and four touchdowns. "This is a special team. Sometimes, (when) we get in the flow and everything starts clicking, we can be hard to stop. To be on a team that achieved something like this -- and to have a part in it -- makes it all very special indeed."
EMCC scored on 11 of 12 possessions in the victory over Coahoma. The Lions' high-octane offense was working to near perfection. Quarterback Dontreal Pruitt completed 22-of-27 passes for 365 yards. Bell had three receptions for 106 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. The Lions punted once and did not commit a turnover.
"Brandon is a really great football player because he is so smart," Pruitt said. "I know that he is always an option for me. With his hands, all you have to do is throw the ball in the general area. It is great when you are working with a player like that. You know if you find him, he is going to make a great play.
Twelve different receivers caught a pass in the win. Fifteen different receivers have caught at least one ball this season. It is the diversity of the offense that makes it hard to stop.
"The biggest thing about this offense is you are surrounded by play-makers," said Bell, who played high school ball at Caledonia High School and Heritage Academy. "No one ever gets down, because the next play can be yours. It is sometimes amazing when you look around at your teammates. You know most of them are going to play at a very high level. It is kind of amazing when you know you are out there and you part of this special group like that."
Buddy Stephens has built an offensive juggernaut in his six seasons. The Lions play up-tempo. The goal is to the have the ball snapped within five seconds of the completion of the previous drive. On each snap, Pruitt may have as many as seven options, including a halfback dunk pass, a bubble screen, a slant pattern or the occasional deep ball. When working to perfection, EMCC attempts to complete all scoring drives in less than two minutes. Of the 11 scoring drives Saturday, eight hit the mark.
"The key word is fast," Bell said. "We practice fast. We run drills fast. We go through meetings fast. A lot of what we do is simple. It is read and react. But there are so many plays that come off just the basics. It has been fun to grow and develop in this offense. I think the fans can see how much we fun we have and the time we put in, based on how well it works."
Stephens has guided EMCC to four division championships, with a quality mix of blue-chip out-of-state recruits, as well as local kids who come in, buy into the system and work extremely hard to make the next level.
"The thing about Brandon is his work ethic," Stephens said. "That is one of those things that really sets him apart. He is a second-year player so he has been in the program and he knows what to expect. We have that core group of players who were disappointed in how last season ended. Since the first day after last season, this group has been the backbone, the motivating force to get us back to that point and beyond.
"These are some special players. They have done everything we have asked of them. They are so focused and drive on being the best."
A year removed from winning the 2011 NJCAA national championship, EMCC has its sights set on a return trip to the title match. Moving to No. 2 in this week's ranking can only aid in that quest. Four games remain on the division slate. Wins in three of those will send EMCC to the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
"We are excited because we don't feel like we have reached our full potential yet," said Bell, whose younger brother Logan is also having a standout senior season at Heritage Academy. "We want the championship, but we are going to play some really good teams at the end of the year. We will have to fight hard to win it."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter