September 5, 2018 11:20:37 AM
While East Mississippi Community College freshman wide receiver Rashad Eades wasn't sure of his role in his team's season opener, he knew one thing.
"The ball is going to be in the air a lot," Eades said, "so you have to make up your mind if you are going to be involved or not. The competition at wide receiver may be some of the most intense on this team. Everybody can run. Everybody can catch."
There was a lot of running and catching in top-ranked EMCC's 50-0 victory against then-No. 13 Hinds C.C. in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) season opener Thursday night.
Eades, who had three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, did some of that running and catching.
EMCC will look for a 2-0 start when it plays at Pearl River Community College (0-1) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Dobie
Holden Stadium in Poplarville. There will be no admission charge due to Tropical Storm Gordon. As of this morning, school officials still plan to play the game as scheduled.
Overall, EMCC has won eight-straight games against the MACJC South Division.
"The most improvement a team makes is from the first game to the second game," EMCC coach Buddy Stephens told his team after it recorded the 21st shutout in his 11 seasons as head coach. "Coming back out and working hard to become the best is what we are trying to do."
Stephens admitted there were few areas where the team could have played better in the season opener. A heavyweight matchup on paper EMCC win the total yards offense category 559-79.
Michigan State transfer Messiah deWeaver led the way at quarterback by going 25-for-38 for 323 yards and four touchdowns in his EMCC debut.
"Just an incredible leader," Eades said. "There is normally a first-time quarterback in this program, so to walk in and have everybody on the offense looking up to you and respecting you, that's big. It's been that way from the start of fall camp, even back during the summer, too. (deWeaver) is a super talented player. It's just great to be out there with him."
deWeaver's completions went to 13 receivers. Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. transfer Kalem Reddix had a team-high seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
"For the players who have played in this league before, you have to respect them," Eades said. "It's a different game on this level. It takes a little while to get adjusted. For a first game, we executed very well. We can build off this success."
Eades played last season on Noxubee County High School's Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State championship team at Noxubee County. After playing in some of the state's biggest games, he felt his transition to college had a chance to go well.
"I think playing somewhere like Noxubee County prepares you for playing here," Eades said. "You have to prepare better. You have to train better if you want to become a national champion. What separates the elite teams from everyone is the preparation."
Stephens has said he prefers signing players from championship programs. Successful winning attitudes in high school can lead to the stronger play on the college level.
"We have a lot of guys from Noxubee County, West Point, Starkville," Eades said. "A lot of the out-of-state guys have won championships. It's a culture in the locker room. It's an expectation of success because that is what we have known in the past."
That state championship pedigree has helped push Eades through his transition. He admits he didn't know what to expect before the opening kickoff Thursday night.
"This is a different world," Eades said. "When the ball was thrown my way, I just tried to make a catch to help my teammates out. You are surrounded by nothing but good players around here. You can get worried about belonging, or you can approach things with an aggressive mind-set. You can tell yourself in practice you belong. That makes it easier when the game lights come on. You know then you do belong."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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