September 19, 2018 11:21:34 AM
SCOOBA -- East Mississippi Community College sophomore offensive lineman LaQuinston Sharp knows when it is going to be a good night.
"This year, we are running the ball a lot," Sharp said. "For the linemen, that is exciting. It has been more run blocking instead of pass blocking. If we see those chains moving, we know we are doing our job."
The chains have moved often this season, as the No. 1 EMCC football team has topped 50 or more points in each of its first three games.
More offensive success is the game plan when EMCC (3-0) plays host to Mississippi Delta Community College (0-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Sullivan-Windham Field in Scooba. It is the second of four home games for the Lions.
"Our offensive line is off to a great start this season," EMCC sophomore running back Deon McIntosh said. "They work hard. They make it look easy on game nights. It's hard to be a linemen in this league. We just have a lot of speed there. That's a blessing. They make our job as running backs much easier."
EMCC coach Buddy Stephens always has run a pass-friendly offense. Still, EMCC's best teams also have had a capable back. The statistics in the running game have decreased of late because the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) is using a running clock in blowouts.
This season, EMCC has used many more first-half run calls. In addition to McIntosh, a transfer from Notre Dame, freshman Keon Moore and sophomore quarterback Vijay Miller are playing key roles. Miller drew his first start of the season in last Thursday in a 56-26 win at Itawamba C.C. in the MACJC North Division opener.
"Our team feeds off success," Sharp said. "If we can score on the first possession of that game, that just lifts everybody's confidence level. We want to play like we did against Hinds (Community College). We took it to them early and they never recovered."
In the 50-0 victory against then-No. 13 Hinds, EMCC scored on its first two offensive possessions and added a safety for a 23-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
After gaining valuable playing time a year ago, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Sharp, a former standout at Columbus High School, is starting at right tackle. He is joined on the line by former Starkville High sophomore Jakoby Jones at left tackle, sophomore Matt Toles at left guard, former Starkville High sophomore Connor Reinike at center, and freshman right guard Baylee Trusty at right guard.
"A lot of experience along the offensive line," Stephens said. "It's really one of the spots on the field where you really that experience. The line has to play as one, so the communication between them is critical. We have been able to run the ball with authority because of good backs but also because of the experience and chemistry of the line."
During its two-year absence from the national championship game (2015 and 2016), ineffective line play was a concern. Great attention to detail has been spent to improve the offensive and defensive lines.
"Being a second-year player in the league gives you a huge advantage," Sharp said. "A lot of players need a little time to adapt to the game on this level. This line has played together for quite some time. We do a great job of picking each other up. When you are in the trenches, you have to believe in your brother.
"We have a lot of respect for each other and get along great. That makes things so much better on game night."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
2. Return to MSU coaching staff excites Hughes COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Rivals Heritage Academy, Starkville Academy split basketball doubleheader HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. No 5 MSU women move to 10-0 by routing Southern Miss COLLEGE SPORTS