Poplarville, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College football program has broken or matched several historical marks on the gridiron over the past year and a half.
The Tigers look to do so again during their season opener at Pearl River Community College on Thursday, August 31. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Dobie Holden Stadium.
Those that cannot attend Northeast's first athletic event of the 2017-18 academic year can watch it live and in high definition on NEMCCTV. Tune in starting at 5:30 p.m. for the pregame show by visiting www.nemcctv.com on any computer, smartphone or tablet.
The Northeast Broadcasting Network also includes new radio affiliate WOWL Fun 91. An audio simulcast featuring Jody Presley and Carter Smith, the Voices of the Tigers can be heard on frequencies 91.9 FM from Burnsville, 92.9 FM from Florence, Ala., and 102.3 FM from Killen, Ala.
A Northeast victory on opening day would be the third in as many years over the Wildcats. The Tigers have never beaten Pearl River more than twice in a row in 37 total meetings dating back to 1949.
Northeast started its march into the top 10 of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings last season with a close 17-14 triumph versus the Wildcats. The Tigers also got past Pearl River on the road during the previous campaign by a 26-23 margin.
However, Poplarville has been unkind to Northeast over the years. The Tigers have only defeated the Wildcats on their home turf twice with a 35-25 decision in 1989 by former headman Johnny Plummer preceding the 2015 win.
Northeast is also seeking back-to-back victories to begin a new campaign for the first time since 2010-11. The Tigers bested East Central Community College in back-to-back seasons during that stretch.
"The season is here and we're excited about it," said Northeast head coach Greg Davis. "We feel like we're really talented. We're anticipating our football team playing at a high level. We have to come out and take one play at a time."
The Tigers, who have already set a new program record for highest preseason ranking with a No. 9 rating from the NJCAA, will debut 42 new players against Pearl River that joined the squad during the offseason.
Among those newcomers is Zac Oden, who is in line to earn his inaugural start at quarterback. He was an Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) All-State selection at Montevallo (Ala.) High School after throwing for 3,210 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior.
Kenzie Phillips is a key returner for Northeast in the backfield. The Oxford High School graduate was the Tigers' top rusher one year ago with a team-high 492 yards and five touchdowns.
Toreano Miner of New Orleans, La., is the lone wideout back for Northeast. He was fourth on the team in receptions with 17 and third in yards at 213 with two scores during his freshman campaign.
McMahon led Northeast in takeaways as a freshman from the linebacker position with five, including four fumble recoveries. He is the Tigers' top returning tackler with 38 stops, including 3.5 for loss.
Edwards, who already holds offers from the University of Colorado and West Virginia University of the Big 12 Conference, was not far behind McMahon with 37 tackles. He also had three interceptions and four pass break ups.
Miner was a stellar kickoff and punt returner last year as well and totaled over 300 yards in that category. Other special teams standouts include Will Lang from Indianola Academy and Kossuth High School's Beau Lee.
"My whole thing going into this season is will over skill," Davis said. "If you can play hard every single play and just do your job 100 percent, we'll be able to win some football games."
The Wildcats feature several new faces themselves, including University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) transfer Korbin Harmon on the defensive line. Linebacker Chase Crosby recorded 55 tackles and four sacks for Pearl River in 2016.
Kent State (Ohio) University transfer Justin Agner is expected to be the Wildcats' signal caller. Pearl River brings back four sophomores on the offensive line to protect Agner, including Tyrin Arceneaux and Tyler Harris.