October 15, 2013 8:50:09 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
SCOOBA -- Todd Mays is having fun on a football field again.
After a frustrating red-shirt season at Arkansas State University last season, Mays is thriving in his very diverse role with the offense at second-ranked East Mississippi Community College.
Mays runs the football, lines up as a pass-receiving target and sees ample snaps as the back-up quarterback. The former prep All-American from Olive Branch High School is thriving and enjoying his change of scenery.
EMCC (7-0 overall, 4-0 North Division) faces Northwest Mississippi Community College (1-6, 1-4 North Division) in its next-to-last regular season game Thursday night.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Bobby Franklin Field in Senatobia.
"This is fun, everything we do around here is fun," Mays said. "There have been times where I had forgotten about how much the fun game was. This season has really changed that. I have a new appreciation for the little things. I am having fun. Then again, I think we all are."
National rankings and video game-type numbers usually translates to fun for a program.
EMCC leads the nation by averaging 64.4 points and 610.9 yards per game. Mays has thrown for 250 yards on 37 pass attempts in his relief role. His offensive strengths go way past his quarterback skills and are a perfect compliment to starter Dontreal Pruitt.
"You can never have enough quarterbacks," sixth-year EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. "There are so many things that we like to do in our offense. The ability to have two quarterbacks on the field provides us more of those options. Todd has come in and established himself as a hard worker and a leader. Even though he is not the starter, we want him in the offense. We want him on the field as often as possible."
The 6-foot, 200-pound freshman Mays has found its niche in the goal-line situations. His quickness and ability to avoid the first hit has made him virtually automatic in goal-line situations. Mays leads the state and is fifth nationally with 11 rushing touchdowns. That total is more than seven other teams in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
"Down close to the goal, we feel certain that we are going to score," May said. "No one can stop that play from the pistol formation from three of four yards out. People read about all of the passing numbers for this team. What they don't realize is how good the offensive line is. To be No. 3 in the nation, you have to have the complete package. We have that here. The initial surge from the line makes it easy for the backs to do their jobs."
At Olive Branch, Mays was a one-man wrecking crew. During his senior season, Mays threw for 3,116 yards and 28 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,304 yards and 18 touchdowns as the Conquistadors won the Class 6A Mississippi High School Activities Association state championship. Those types of numbers, combined with Mays' instant charisma, made him quite the fit for Stephens and his staff.
"When you look at the tape, there is not much to not like about Todd Mays," Stephens said. "Then when you get to know him and realize the type of person he is. He came in right away, learned the offense and created the type of presence that told us he had to be on the field. We want speed and we want play-making ability. If you have both of those, we are going to find something to do with you."
EMCC has always been a pass-first team. This season, the Lions have thrown the ball even more than usual. Thus, Mays is actually second on the team with 465 rushing yards. Mays has also caught nine passes for 77 yards. In the air, he has completed 25-of-37 passes for 250 yards with a touchdown.
"Basically, it is whatever the coaches ask me to do, I am willing to do," Mays said. "The thing with this team is they are so many players capable of making the big plays. I am just happy to have any role in making the system go. The offense is fun to watch. I would not want to have to defend all of the things we are capable of doing. We knew the last two teams we played (Holmes and Northeast Mississippi Community College) were really good on defense, so we took that as a personal challenge. Now, that we are playing the best teams in the state, we have to turn it up a notch and be even better.
"We don't want to leave any doubt about what type of team we have this season."
EMCC can clinch a playoff berth with a win Thursday night. The Lions could also secure a third straight North Division championship with a win and a Northeast win at Itawamba Community College.
"Coach tells us to plan on playing five more games," Mays said. "That is how we look at it. We also look at is five more chances to have fun."
n ICC falls in rankings: At Fulton, Itawamba Community College dropped to No. 20 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association rankings after losing to Coahoma Community College 47-41 in double overtime on Saturday.
The Indians (5-2, 3-1 MACJC North) were one of three Top 20 teams to lose to unranked opponents last week.
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter