By DANNY P. SMITH
Two days after winning a national championship in junior college football, the East Mississippi Community College coaches were on the road Monday working for another one.
The EMCC Lions defeated Arizona Western College 55-47 at the El Toro Bowl in Yuma, Ariz., on Saturday for the school's first national title.
EMCC offensive coordinator Marcus Wood, a native of Starkville, called winning the championship an "Unbelievable" experience, but on the plane flight home from Arizona, the coaching staff was already discussing the strategy to stay at that level.
"We kind of already had our plans in place," Wood said. "We had been out a little bit prior to the game. A week before the (national championship) game, we had gone to watch several schools. We broke up, blanketed some different areas and tried to make sure to cover our district schools first."
The Lions did just that this season by using several area players, including the contributions of Starkville's Jarrod Atterberry, D.J. Jordan and Billy Shed, to finish the season at 12-0 and with a national crown. Former SHS quarterback Jaquez Johnson sat out the season with a medical redshirt.
EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens knows the area is rich with talent and tapping into that is an ongoing process.
"It's just a circle of life and we start it all over again," Stephens said. "It's all new with exciting things. We're looking for the guys coming back to fill the shoes of the guys we've got leaving and looking forward to having the new recruits come in."
One of the players departing after an outstanding sophomore season is quarterback Bo Wallace, who set a NJCAA record this season with 53 touchdown passes.
Wood has enjoyed working with a quarterback like Wallace.
"He's such a smart and strong-armed kid that can do just about anything as far as throwing the football," Wood said. "He can throw it just about anywhere he wants to.
"He's really a student of the game. He studies it and tries to do what you ask him to do. He's a sharp kid who can do so many things offensively and was able to utilize so many different weapons."
Wallace completed 31-of-43 pass attempts for 460 yards and seven touchdowns against Arizona Western. The Pulaski, Tenn., native and Arkansas State transfer was the Offensive Most Valuable Player for the Lions with his performance.
In the aftermath of winning the title, it was special for the EMCC administration, players and coaches as they shared the moment with their families.
"My sons had gotten down (to the field) by the end of the game and to have them near me was unbelievable," Wood said. "To win that and to have pictures made with the trophy and the boys after the game and we were all together, it was really a special deal."
Wood appreciates the support that not only the people of Scooba have provided, but throughout the entire district.
Stephens said the goals set by the Lions this season were accomplished.
"It was something we had looked forward to for a long time," Stephens said. "Since we got here, we said we wanted to put our program on a national level and a top 10 level as far as No. 1 graduating young men and No. 2 as far as competing on a national level. We've proven we've done that now."