Summit, Miss. - For the second consecutive campaign, the Northeast Mississippi Community College football team will begin a promising new year with its longest road trip of the entire season.
The Tigers begin their 59th overall season on the gridiron by visiting Southwest Mississippi Community College on Thursday, August 30. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at John I. Hurst Stadium.
Those that cannot attend Northeast's first athletic event of the 2018-19 academic year can watch it live and in high definition on NEMCCTV. Tune in starting at 6:30 p.m. for the pregame show by visiting www.nemcctv.com on any computer, smartphone or tablet.
The Northeast Broadcasting Network also includes 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 its fourth straight over the Bears. The Tigers have never beaten Southwest more than three times in a row in 29 total meetings dating back to the 1968 campaign.
Northeast bested the Bears last season in a memorable contest that included a lengthy weather delay. The Tigers also won the last matchup in Summit two years ago after tying the school record for most points in a single game with 55.
However, Southwest will feature an almost entirely new look when compared to the previous campaign following changes to its coaching staff and an offensive philosophy that is centered around the spread option.
"They're going to run the option, but we don't know really and truly everything they're going to do defensively or on special teams," said Tigers head coach Greg Davis. "So we have to kinda be prepared for everything. We have to understand our lay of the land."
Experience at several key positions will help Northeast in its planning for the unknown. Among those coming back for the Tigers is Montevallo, Ala., native Zac Oden at the quarterback slot.
Oden passed for 229 yards and a touchdown before an injury ended his true freshman campaign after just five quarters of action. Protecting him on the offensive line is sophomores Quan Stokes from Moultrie, Ga., and Saraland, Ala., product Matthew Trehern, who both hold NCAA Division I offers.
Hernando's O.D. Wooten is the top returning receiver for Northeast with 21 catches, 272 yards and three scores. Jalen Cobbs of Corinth, Independence's Zykeris Mosley and Karleke Oliver from Hernando all saw consistent playing time one season ago at running back.
The Tigers boast a powerful defensive unit that features weapons at each location. The defensive line is full of new faces, but includes gifted athletes such as three-star prospects Isaiah Forte of Montgomery, Ala., and Campbell (N.C.) University transfer Emmanuel Olenga.
University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) commitment Sam Williams and Provine High School graduate Juwan Taylor pace the linebackers. The duo combined for over 100 tackles last year while Williams had a team-best 11 tackles for loss.
University of Houston (Texas) commit Terrance Edgeston guides the defensive backs and could move up on occasion to linebacker as well. He tallied 32 tackles during a solid inaugural campaign in the City of Hospitality.
Michael Baugus of Corinth is in charge of special teams duties for Northeast. He was a Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Class 4A All-State selection as a senior after averaging 38.1 yards per punt and connecting on 86 percent of his extra point and field goal opportunities.
"Ultimately, we feel that our level of talent has raised," Davis said. "I think the biggest thing is the way they approach every day. They're competing and trying to get better. We're tired of hitting each other. They've got cabin fever. So let's see what we can do when we kick it off."
The Bears are similar to the Tigers in that they have multiple players back on the defensive side of the pigskin. Jalon Thigpen is the top returning tackler for Southwest with 24 takedowns plus a fumble recovery to his credit.
Southwest will debut true freshmen quarterbacks and running backs against Northeast. The Bears do have a handful of sophomore receivers such as Anthony Jones and Johnny Wilson.
This is the first time that these institutions have competed against each other in a season opener since September 2, 2004. The Tigers won that matchup 9-0 on their way to a 7-3 overall record and a berth to the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) playoffs.