JCJC end Wardalis Ducksworth (48) leads the Bobcat defense on a tackle last week vs. Mississippi Gulf Coast. (Photo by jucoweekly.org)

‘Last Chance U’, No. 6 ’Cats to square off today at JCJC

Where else would you rather be today (Saturday) than Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field?

The No. 6 Jones County Junior College Bobcats (8-1) will host the No.3 East Mississippi Lions (8-1) at

1 p.m., in an MACJC semifinal game. The contest will air on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.

The Bobcats’ only loss of the season came in the season-opener on Aug. 31 at East Mississippi. The Bobcats led 28-14 early in the third quarter, but EMCC rallied to win, 47-34.

The statistics suggest another high-scoring game will be played today.

EMCC leads the MACJC and NJCAA in scoring, averaging 50.9 points per game. The Bobcats are second in the MACJC and fifth nationally in scoring, averaging 43.4 points per game.

JCJC head coach Steve Buckley said both teams have improved since that opening game.

“A lot of things have changed for both teams in the last nine weeks,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ve gotten better and I’m sure they have gotten better. It’s that time of the year. It’s time to play it off and that’s why they call it playoffs.

“The best team will win and move on and the other team will pack it up and be done for the year. I am excited that we are in it and I’m excited for another opportunity. We have come a long way in two years and we just want to keep playing.”

This will be only JCJC’s third home playoff appearance in 15 years. The Bobcats hosted the MACJC championship game and lost 7-0 to Holmes in 2002 (the final game at Bush-Young Stadium) and defeated Itawamba 49-21 in the opening round in 2013.

The Bobcats have won eight straight games since losing to the Lions. Buckley said with each win during that streak, the next game has become even more important.

“The better you get, the bigger the next game becomes, and that has kind of been the message to our team for the last three or four weeks,” he said. “The better we become as a football team, the bigger the next stage is going to be.

“I think we have prepared our kids for where we are right now. I know we will play hard.”

The Lions are led on offense by freshman quarterback Lindsay Scott, Jr. (5-11, 210), an LSU transfer from Zachary, La., along with running back Tyrell Price (6-0, 220), a sophomore from Lafayette, and receiver Kirk Merritt (6-0, 210), a transfer from Oregon and Texas A&M.

On defense, EMCC is led by linebacker Ty’Ree Evans (6-2, 210) of Wayne County, linebacker Emanuel Bridges (6-2, 225) of Newnan, Ga., back Denzel Bonner (6-2, 205) of Wayne County and back Duke Upshaw (6-0, 185) of Baldwyn.

Buckley knows the Lions are talented, but he said the entire MACJC is strong and provides a test each week.

“You look at this league from top to bottom and there is not a weakness,” he said. “People just don’t understand that it’s hard just to win a football game. People take wins for granted sometimes.”

The Lions are the defending state champions and have won it five times in the last eight years. They won NJCAA national titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Since the loss to the Lions, the Bobcats have reeled off eight straight wins.

Buckley said anyone who wants to see quality football should be at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field this weekend.

“It’s great to be playing at home,” he said. “I hope people from South Mississippi will come out. If they want to see a good brand of football, this will be a great opportunity. I hope it’s a beautiful day.”