November 9, 2014 12:42:35 AM
WESSON -- Each season, Christmas morning approaches and many youngsters have the same enthusiasm when they rip through their presents.
The same could be said for the East Mississippi Community College football team.
While the championships are mounting, the Lions celebrate each title like it is the only one they have ever had.
No. 2 EMCC cruised to its fourth Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges state championship Saturday afternoon by rolling over No. 10 Copiah-Lincoln C.C. 54-15 before a near-capacity crowd at H.L. Stone Stadium.
"There is nothing like a championship. This is fun," EMCC sophomore Todd Mays said. "It doesn't matter how many times you win one, it feels out of this world. What a great group of guys. What a championship run. Man, this is fun."
EMCC had never won a state title before capturing the championship in 2009. The Lions have since added the 2012, 2013, and 2014 trophies to the case. Still, players hugged, high-fived, and took turns planting big kisses on the trophy.
"This is three-straight state championships," said EMCC sophomore running back Preston Baker, who won the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state championship in 2012 at Starkville High before playing on the last two title winners at EMCC. "That is unreal. It is pretty awesome when you work this hard. This is what you want to get when the season starts. Then, it feels even better."
EMCC coach Buddy Stephens again led the team through plenty of postgame pictures. Not only are the Lions good at creating history, they are equally as good at documenting it.
"We played extremely well," Stephens said. "The defense was lights out. (Defensive coordinator) Jordan Lesley and the guys on the defensive staff did a great job of getting these guys ready. It is just great to have another state championship team. Now we will try to become a national championship team."
EMCC (11-0) almost assuredly clinched a berth in the national championship game with the win. The Lions slipped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the national rankings two weeks ago. The nation's top two teams will meet in a bowl game.
Top-ranked Iowa Western College (11-0) also finished its season Saturday with a 38-10 win against Iowa Central. The final rankings are expected Tuesday. The nation's No. 1 team will play host to a bowl game to determine the national champion.
If Iowa Western remains No. 1, the teams will play in Cedar Falls, Iowa. If EMCC moves back to No. 1, the teams will play in Biloxi.
"There is no doubt we are the No. 1 team," EMCC sophomore defensive back Quan Latham said. "All we can do is keep winning games. It doesn't matter where we play or who we play, we just have to keep winning."
Winning Saturday was never in doubt.
After punting on its initial possession, EMCC scored on three-straight possessions.
Chad Kelly hit Todd Mays on a 17-yard touchdown, Mays scored on a 1-yard run, and Kelly hit Desmond Goss on a 30-yard touchdown.
EMCC was equally dominant on defense. The first six possessions for Co-Lin (9-2) ended in two punts and four turnovers. Allen Sentimore had two interceptions, while Demetrius Cain had another. Lorenzo Phillips also had a 32-yard fumble return touchdown that made it 27-0.
It was EMCC's 11th non-offensive touchdown this season.
"Our goal was to come out here and totally dominate," Sentimore said. "Playing for a state championship is exciting. You take your game to another level. I don't think there is any doubt that this team really did that today."
By the time the second quarter was in full swing, photographers could start loading cameras for the postgame presentation.
EMCC built a 33-3 halftime lead and finished with 491 yards of total offense.
"Even though this program always wins, I never knew how much fun this would be," EMCC freshman wide receiver Camion Patrick said. "We came out with the right mind-set today. Last couple of games we had some struggles, so we wanted to make sure we came out ready to roll in this game. If you are playing for a championship, you know the other team is good."
Kelly was 28 of 39 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Wyatt Roberts, who won a state championship at Louisville High School, threw a pair of touchdowns in relief.
Isaac Johnson led the receivers with six catches for 114 yards. Baker had 54 rushing yards and a touchdown in his last MACJC game.
"When the season started our goal was to win the state championship," Kelly said. "The expectations are high here but still everybody has do their part."
Now the EMCC players and coaches hope that the rankings committee does its part. Stephens admits the team hasn't been told why it fell to second to despite the fact it has extended its winning streak to 22 games in a row and is winning games by an average of 48.8 points this season.
"We ask (the National Junior College Athletic Association) for the formula, they won't give it to us," Stephens said.
Regardless of the location, Baker wants to see the same team he saw Saturday.
"We have one game left," Baker said. "We have to play really great. We have to play like this again."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
1. Fitzgerald limited in MSU's spring opener COLLEGE SPORTS
2. MSU men beat Louisville to reach semifinals of NIT COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tagovailoa injures hand in Alabama's spring practice COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Third-quarter surge makes MSU three times sweet COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Hatcher plays key role in rout COLLEGE SPORTS