Kitchen part of JuCo championship

Published 4:12 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2018

By Myra Bean

Eriq Kitchen and the East Mississippi football team were on their way back from Pittsburg, Kanas Friday morning after winning the NJCAA National Championship the night before.

That they were the national champions had not quite settled in Kitchen’s mind at the time. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

East Mississippi won 10-9 over No. 2 Garden City Community College, Kansas. East Mississippi had the ball with less than a minute left in the game and Garden City got the ball with about 30 seconds to go. East Mississippi intercepted the final pass and ran out the time on the clock.

Going into the game, East kept to the same practice schedule. The team did have Thanksgiving off then reported back for game week. “We had to change our defense up to match the offense they run,” Kitchen said.

The team was focused throughout the whole week. They knew that it was going to be on a big stage being the first time it was on national T.V. “We just had to show the world how Mississippi football is played,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen led in tackles with 13 and had 2.5 tackles for loss yards.

Alongside previous national championships collected in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017, EMCC’s five NJCAA titles under the guidance of 11th-year head coach Buddy Stephens are closing in on the all-time mark of six national football crowns currently shared by Butler (Kan.) and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. 

The Lions also join Butler as the only two NJCAA member schools to have won back-to-back national football championships on two separate occasions.  Butler did so in 1998-99 and then again in 2007-08.

“This one is sweet because it’s back-to-back,” Stephens said.  “It’s also sweet because our sophomores have lost only one game in two years (23-1) and won two national championships.”