September 7, 2018 10:53:25 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
POPLARIVLLE -- Randall Bradberry performed one of his first duties as interim president at East Mississippi Community
College on Thursday night.
Bradberry presented football coach Buddy Stephens with a game ball after he earned career win No. 100 in No. 1 EMCC's 59-10 victory against Pearl River C.C. at Dobie Holden Stadium.
Bradberry, who is director of athletics at EMCC, has spent most of his adult life in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC). He played in the league and later served as an assistant coach and head coach in the league.
Next week, he is supposed to be named the school's interim president after Rick Young resigned Tuesday.
"A year ago, Buddy set a milestone when he became the winningest coach at EMCC," Bradberry said. "At that time, he had the highest winning percentage in the history of the (National Junior College Athletic Association). His career record is now 100 and 13. That's just insane. It's an impressive record. He just keeps winning.
"Here is the math. He has won 100 games in 11 seasons. We only play nine regular-season games per year in this state, so essentially he is winning more than that per year. That's just incredible. I have been in the league for a long time. We will never see this again."
Stephens has guided EMCC to four NJCAA national championships. The Lions (2-0) started the 2018 campaign ranked No. 1 in the nation for the fifth time in 11 seasons. They are trying to repeat as national champions for the second time under Stephens.
Stephens' 100 wins ranks seventh all-time among active coaches in the NJCAA. His .885 winning percentage is No. 1 all-time among all coaches.
"It's a championship standard and it starts in practice," said EMCC sophomore defensive lineman Everitt Cunningham, who played at West Point High School. "We have the best coaches at every position. Each day we come in competing against ourselves. The coaches recruit all the time. If you aren't ready to compete against the best every day in practice, you aren't going to last.
"All of the credit goes to the coaches. They bring in the best players in the nation and make it work."
Stephens carried EMCC to the 2009 Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State championship. EMCC won its first national championship in 2011. The team featured an up-tempo offense and had a tendency to push hard for 60 minutes, regardless of the score.
Rules have since followed. Now, there is a running clock when a team holds a 38-point lead in the second half. EMCC has played with two of those clocks this season. EMCC shut out then-No. 13 Hinds C.C. 50-0 in the season opener.
"We have the running clocks and all types of other rules in this state," Bradberry said. "A lot has changed, and some of that is because of this success. It's a big deal to have 100 wins in this length of time, and he is not slowing down."
After the game, Stephens returned the favor of receiving a game ball by giving Bradberry another ball in honor of his first win as president.
"We have had a lot of changes here, but there has always been a commitment," Stephens said. "We owe it to the kids to give them the best."
Bradberry has been back on the EMCC campus for three football seasons. He takes pride in the school's athletic achievements. He understands what Stephens has accomplished because he was a head coach at the school.
"The thing about Buddy is he does not let up," Bradberry said. "In every aspect of running this program, he does not let up. Weight room, recruiting, practice, game night, classroom, he does not let up. He cuts no corner. He demands excellence at all times on all levels. He holds people accountable when they fall short of that standard.
"Look back at this past year, where the football team was named No. 1 nationally in academics. The team won the national championship on the field and in the classroom in the same year."
Abby Jenkins was in her first year as the school's academic counselor for athletes this past school year. The football team finished with a 3.01 grade-point average.
"It is a credit to Abby and to the people who work with her. It's also a credit to Buddy and his staff. Not only do they make sure everything gets done in the classroom, they also recruit the type of athlete who can fit here. If you can grow a young person in the classroom and on the field, well that's job well done."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.