East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) head coach Buddy Stephens has been named the 2014 American Community College Football Coaches Association (ACCFCA) Coach of the Year. The award will be presented to Stephens at the American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year Dinner on Tuesday, January 13, at the 2015 AFCA Convention in Louisville, Ky.
“It’s an extraordinarily humbling feeling for me to receive this award because this is something that is voted on by your peers,” Stephens said. “To me, it’s a coaching staff of the year award. I think I have the best coaching staff in the country and those guys do an outstanding job of getting our players ready each year. I really like to look at this as a coaching staff of the year award because it reflects all of the work they do and I’m very honored that my staff and I could receive this.”
Stephens recently completed his seventh season as head coach at EMCC by guiding the Lions to a 12-0 record and a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship in 2014. Stephens became the first football coach in the history of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) to secure three NJCAA championships.
With the most recent national titles coming back-to-back, the EMCC Lions have also set a new NJCAA record by producing three national titles in a four-year span. The Lions have won 44 of their last 46 contests, including a current streak of 24 consecutive victories that comprises back-to-back undefeated campaigns as well as a previous 20-game win string during the 2011-12 seasons.
Stephens is the first coach to receive ACCFCA honors twice, as he previously won the award in 2011. In addition, Stephens is a four-time NJCAA Region 23 Coach of the Year selection as tabbed by his coaching peers.
In his seven seasons at EMCC, Stephens has an overall record of 68-10 and has guided the Lions to four MACJC State/NJCAA Region 23 championships in the past six years (2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014) in addition to having earned a sixth MACJC North Division regular-season crown. Before arriving at EMCC, Stephens was an assistant coach at Pearl River Community College for seven seasons, and spent eight years of his career at the high school level in Alabama and Louisiana.
Stephens has been featured twice before in This Is AFCA magazine’s annual Champions Edition. At the end of his 2013 season, This Is AFCA asked him how he felt about his upcoming 2014 campaign. Stephens was confident.
“Football teams are like children. Every one of them is different. Each team has its own idiosyncrasies,” Stephens said at the time. “This team has the talent makeup to be very good. We are better in some places than we were last year. We are as good in some places as we were last year. We don’t have some of the experience that we had in some places. And in some places, we need to mature a little bit.
“I have the same sense. I think we’ve done a good job in recruiting and I have the same sense that we are very talented. If our players handle adversity well, we will be in the mix at the end of the year. I hope that’s where we’ve gotten our program.
“I think we are similar, but all the stars have to align and everything has to be right for us to be able to win a championship. But just like last year, we are worried about being 1-0 at the end of the firs week, and then take it week by week.”
East Mississippi offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Marcus Wood showed This Is AFCA magazine how the team runs its Y-Stick Route, which the team turned to its advantage numerous times during its first championship run.
“We threw the ball using the Y-Stick Route 46 times in 2011 for an average of 7.3 yards per play,” said Wood. “We completed this route 79.8 percent of the time. This is one of our core routes and helped East Mississippi Community College win the State and National Titles in 2011.”