Brandon Rodgers sparked two second-half scoring drives with kickoff returns of 54 and 24 yards Sunday to lead the No. 1 East Mississippi Community College football team to a 31-28 victory against No. 2 Arizona Western in the Mississippi Bowl on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. in Perkinston. Photo by: Jason Dyess/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
December 4, 2017 10:39:21 AM
PERKINSTON -- One of East Mississippi Community College's best victories Sunday was dedicated to the memory of a fallen player.
Sophomore defensive lineman Tyone Clemons was killed in an automobile accident two weeks ago in Jones County. The final weeks of bowl practice and the Mississippi Bowl were played in his memory.
No. 1 EMCC beat No. 2 Arizona Western College 31-28 at A.L. May Memorial Stadium on the campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.
Bowl organizers and EMCC players made sure the former All-State lineman from West Jones High School was remembered. A Philadelphia native, Clemons was affectionately nicknamed "Philly" by his teammates.
"This was all about Philly," EMCC sophomore defensive back Ty Williams said. "It hurts he was not here with us. However, we know he was watching. He was proud. He wanted this championship as much as the rest of us."
Clemons family was recognized on the field before the game and also took part in the coin toss. A moment of silence was held and the Mighty Lion Band also had a tribute. After the game, Clemons' mother hugged coach Buddy Stephens and thanked him for taking care of her son during his two seasons at the school.
After the game, players passed around the No. 99 jersey and made sure it was part of multiple team photos. The team also broke its final huddle together with "No. 99" and then "champions."
EMCC sophomore linebacker Ty'Ree Evans was playing close to home, so the former Wayne County standout took that opportunity to close his junior college career with a standout performance.
Evans was named his team's defensive MVP after recording 10 tackles, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.
"We have been waiting two years for this," Evans said. "Have to say I am pretty proud of the defense. It was a brotherhood. We cared so much for one another. It was great to end it this way with all of them."
EMCC quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. was chosen his team's offensive MVP. Scott was 15-for-28 for 170 yards with touchdown passes to Dontario Drummond and Kirk Merritt.
Arizona Western sophomore quarterback Bryce Perkins was chosen his team's offensive MVP. Perkins was 18-for-32 passing for 139 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore defensive end Tyrik Jones earned his team's defensive MVP honors. Jones had seven tackles, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.
Scott also was recognized as the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Player of the Year. That season-long award is given to the top player for the Mississippi participant in the Mississippi Bowl.
Scott completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 3,481 yards and 29 touchdowns.
While the future of the Mississippi Bowl remains in doubt, the future of the national championship game is set.
The NJCAA will begin playing its national championship in Pittsboro, Kansas, starting in 2018. The Mississippi Bowl has been the destination spot for the MACJC champion in each of the last 10 seasons. The game has hosted the national championship four times.
EMCC moved to 5-0 in the Mississippi Bowl with the win. It has beaten Arizona Western twice in this event. EMCC also won 27-24 in 2009.
EMCC won three National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national titles (2013, 2014 and 2017) with a victory in this event. Northwest Mississippi C.C. won the Mississippi Bowl and national title in 2015.
Overall, the Mississippi representative is 9-1 in this event. Copiah-Lincoln C.C. lost the 2012 Mississippi Bowl. Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. won the event in 2011, when it subbed for state champion EMCC, which won the El Toro Bowl in Yuma, Arizona.
While EMCC has five Mississippi Bowl wins, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. has three and Northwest Mississippi C.C. has one.
This and that
EMCC won its fourth national championship (2011, 2013, 2014, and 2017). ... The Lions have won six state championships (2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017). ... The Lions (11-1) finished with 11 or more wins for the sixth time in Stephens' 10 seasons. ... EMCC will finish in the top 10 nationally for the eighth time under Stephens. ... EMCC is the first MACJC member with four national championships. ... Butler C.C. holds the all-time record with six (last in 2008). ... EMCC has now won all three meetings against Arizona Western (27-24 in 2009 Mississippi Bowl and 55-47 in 2011 El Toro Bowl and Sunday). ... Stephens is 12-0 in state championship and bowl games combined.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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