December 9, 2013 8:44:56 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
BILOXI -- In a season full of dominating performances, the East Mississippi Community College football team delivered another one in its final game.
No. 2 EMCC rallied from two deficits to post a 52-32 victory against No. 1 Georgia Military College in the sixth Mississippi Bowl on Sunday afternoon at Indian Stadium on the Biloxi High School campus.
EMCC will be named national champions for the second time in three seasons later today when the National Junior College Athletic Association releases its final rankings.
"Being national champions is what it is all about," said EMCC sophomore defensive lineman Jimmie Gipson, who shared bowl MVP honors with teammate Antoinne Adkins. "Since last season ended, we have had this date circled. To be able to win the championship in our home state in front of all of our fans makes it even sweeter."
The stadium was packed in red and black as EMCC finished its second undefeated season in program history. EMCC joins Northwest Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College as the only programs in the state with multiple NJCAA national championships in football.
"The focus for this team was incredible," EMCC sixth-year coach Buddy Stephens said. "They were able to respond to the challenge each week. That is nearly impossible in football today. The kids were always ready to play and always ready to respond to a challenge."
EMCC (12-0) won all of its games by 7 points or more. While the Lions didn't play a ranked opponent in the regular season, they faced three top-10 foes in the postseason. Those opponents gave up 158 combined points to the Lions.
On Sunday, former West Point High School standout Lakenderic Thomas rushed for a career-high 250 yards and three touchdowns. Adkins also had a career day with 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In his final start at EMCC, quarterback Dontreal Pruitt threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, including the two to Adkins and another to C.J. Bates.
"We were the best team in the nation this year," said Bates, a former standout at Louisville High. "It is pretty hard to believe. Not sure when that will sink in."
EMCC rallied from a 16-7 first-quarter deficit. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, EMCC had a comfortable lead and the capacity crowd had put away their rain gear and was cheering on every first down.
"It's a special day for our community college," EMCC President Dr. Rick Young said. "However, it is a special day for this state as well. It was the first national championship game in football played in the state. The atmosphere was outstanding and the team delivered. It was a great day."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter