September 4, 2013 7:09:52 PM
From Special Reports
FULTON -- Itawamba Community College will hit the road for the first time this season as they travel to Summit to take on Southwest Mississippi Community College in the Bears' home opener in a game that has drawn national attention after being named the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Game of the Week.
"It's a great honor to be recognized in this capacity by the NJCAA," said ICC head football coach Jon Williams. "I'm expecting Thursday night to be a battle from start to finish and hopefully we will be on the positive side of the score at the end of the night."
The Bears (1-0; 0-0 MACJC South) opened the season with a 19-15 come-from-behind victory at Northwest Mississippi Community College (0-1; 0-0 MACJC North) on a 71-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Tim Lewis.
"It's a big confidence boost anytime you can go on the road and get a win in this league," Williams said. "Southwest showed a lot heart and desire to win after going down 15-0 and being able to score 19-unanswered points to get a win at a place like Northwest where wins are tough to come by."
Southwest had 237 yards of total offense (89 passing; 148 rushing) with Chris Jones leading the way with 114 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
"I expect to see a much improved offense take the field Thursday night," said Williams. "They had a few mental break downs, but they were able to fight through those and play with a lot of intensity when they could have easily shut it down. That shows the great coaching staff they have at Southwest and you have to really respect a team that is going to give you everything they've got until the final horn sounds."
Defensively, the Bears gave up 366 total offensive yards (193 passing; 173 rushing) to Northwest.
"They nearly had three guys with double digits tackles and had nine tackles for loss with a couple of sacks and the big interception return to win the game," Williams commented. "We are going to have to protect the football and win the battle up front if we want to be successful and hope to come away with a win Thursday night."
Williams thinks special teams could be a deciding factor in the final outcome of Thursday's game.
"They have a really good special teams unit," Williams said. "One player broke off a 45-yard kickoff return and their punter did a great job making Northwest work with a long field all night long. Whichever team can consistently win the battle of field position will have the upper hand in the game."
Last season, ICC defeated Southwest 22-10 in the Indians' home opener at Eaton Field.
"Last year's outcome means nothing this season," commented Williams. "We approach each week as if we are 0-0 and all we are worried about is being 1-0 at the end of the week. We are excited about preparing for a long road trip to take on a very good football team out of the extremely tough South Division."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and can be heard on WAFM 95.7 FM (Amory) as well as fm95radio.com and can been seen streaming live on njcaatv.com/iccathletics starting at 6:40 from John I. Hurst Stadium.
For more information on ICC football and the nine other intercollegiate athletic programs, follow ICC Athletics on Twitter (@LetsGoICC) and visit www.LetsGoICC.com.
EMCC hosts East Central: At Scooba, the fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College will kick off their first five-game, regular-season home football slate since 2010 by playing host to traditional gridiron rival East Central Community College Thursday evening on the Scooba campus. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at EMCC's Sullivan-Windham Field.
For the second consecutive week to open EMCC's 2013 campaign, Thursday's contest against East Central will be the featured JUCO Weekly MACJC Football Game of the Week.
On an individual note heading into the Lions' home opener, EMCC freshman wide receiver/punt returner C.J. Bates has added NJCAA Special Teams Player of the Week honors to his 2013 resume after previously collecting MACJC/jucoweekly.org Player of the Week recognition earlier in the week. The former Louisville High School standout accounted for 178 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns during EMCC's opener on four punt returns for 100 yards and four receptions for 78 yards.
As a team, head coach Buddy Stephens' EMCC Lions moved up three notches to No. 5 nationally in this week's NJCAA Top 20 football poll following their 49-6 season-opening road victory over Pearl River Community College a week ago in Poplarville. East Mississippi maintains its No. 4 national rating this week in both the www.JCGridiron.com and www.JCFootball.com rankings.
The Warriors of East Central opened the Ken Karcher coaching era by dropping a 40-7 road decision to Itawamba Community College last Thursday in Fulton. Karcher, who succeeded Brian Anderson at the ECCC football helm, most recently spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University. He previously served as the head football coach at Liberty University for six seasons (2000-2005).
Traditionally hailed for many years as the long-standing "Scooba-Decatur" football rivalry, the Lions and Warriors had not met on the gridiron for four seasons (2008-2011) prior to last year's 51-7 EMCC triumph in Decatur. A season ago at ECCC's Bailey Stadium, the visiting Lions forced four first-half East Central turnovers while scoring 38 unanswered points en route to posting the convincing 44-point victory. Prior to last season, the Warriors had prevailed during each of the previous six EMCC-ECCC football meetings that spanned nine years (1999-2007), including East Central's 31-20 road win over the Lions played at the original Sullivan-Windham Field in 2007.
Northwest receives probation: At Jackson, Northwest Mississippi Community College, one of the winningest programs in junior college football history, has been hit with three years of sanctions by the MACJC through the 2015 season. The violations are due to the oversigning of National Letters of Intent.
The sanctions include a postseason ban for the 2013 season. In addition, Northwest will have to reduce its roster from the maximum 55 to 50 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and also reduce its scholarships by three.
While the college athletic staff and administration respect the decision made by MACJC Commissioner, Jim Southward, they want the general public and the student-athletes affected to understand the origination of the sanctions.
The current MACJC handbook specifically defines "athletic scholarship," but does not define "letter of intent" with regard to the number of players signed with the college. The letters of intent sent to the players who put the college over their 55-man limit clearly stated "no athletic aid" and were signed by the parents and student-athletes. The letter of intent is an official NJCAA form that allows colleges to offer "no athletic aid."
First-year head coach, Brad LaPlante, and athletic director, Cameron Blount, submitted all scholarship and non-scholarship players' names to the NJCAA website in June, making public their list of signees.
The athletic staff was forthcoming with all signees and followed protocol set forth by the MACJC and NJCAA handbooks. Blount and LaPlante, therefore, moved forward with all of their signees in practice.
According to Southward, the MACJC is looking into adding language that will update the way their official scholarship agreement reads, using "scholarship/letter of intent" instead of "scholarship" to avoid any confusion in the future.
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