BOONEVILLE, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College athletic department took another big step forward in the national landscape during its 70th year of intercollegiate competition.
Two teams received national rankings while four out of Northeast's five competitive athletic programs participated in the postseason during a sensational 2018-19 academic year.
Northeast was also one of only two two-year institutions in the entire country to possess a pair of national players of the year this sports season along with Rock Valley (Ill.) College.
Sophomore lineman Sam Williams (Montgomery, Ala.) was the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Magnolia State and tying for first countrywide with 17.5 sacks.
The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) signee also placed second on the national charts in both tackles for loss at 28.5 and forced fumbles with four. He accounted for the third most stops overall for the Tigers with 75.
Sophomore Lizzy Van Manen (Pella, Iowa) was the Diamond Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) NJCAA Division II Catcher of the Year. She broke multiple program records while at Northeast, including the mark for most career hits with 122.
Van Manen, who will continue her softball career at Jacksonville State (Ala.) University, also established a new record for most hits in a single season with 79 during her sophomore campaign.
Both Van Manen and Williams garnered first-team All-American laurels from the NFCA and NJCAA, respectively, to go with their national player of the year accolades as well.
Van Manen's individual success was just the tip of the iceberg for the softball team this season. The Tigers set a new program record for most regular season victories with 35 on their way to a trip to the state semifinals.
Northeast, which is under the watch of veteran coach Jody Long, also rose to as high as No. 5 in the NJCAA Division II rankings and appeared in that same poll for seven consecutive weeks. Both those are new program bests as well.
Van Manen was not the only Tiger to etch her name into the record books. Austyn Holden's (Coldwater) 324 putouts and Alexis McGreger's (Holly Springs) 187 at bats are new standard bearers for Northeast.
Caleigh Wallace (Killen, Ala.) now holds the career marks for most home runs with 27 and most runs scored at 94. She also became the first Tiger to ever hit 10-plus homers in back-to-back campaigns.
Breanna Tarpley (Athens, Ala.) crushed the previous records for both career and single season doubles and RBIs. She connected on 28 two-baggers and drove in 56 runs as a sophomore and tallied 46 doubles and 94 RBIs overall in two years at Northeast.
Harley Mullins (Saltillo) tossed the Tigers' first perfect game in seven seasons by striking out 10 of 15 batters faced in a run-rule victory against Southeastern Illinois College in the annual TigerFest Tournament.
Tarpley followed suit two weekends later by throwing a no-hitter during Northeast's big triumph over visiting Shawnee (Ill.) Community College in the Farewell to Carnell Classic.
McGreger, Tarpley, Van Manen and Wallace were all chosen to the NFCA All-South Region team. In addition, Ayriana Stoneback (Notalsuga, Ala.), Mullins, Van Manen and Wallace were Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) All-State recipients.
The men's basketball squad reached the semifinals of the MACJC State Tournament for the third consecutive campaign. It is the fifth straight year in which the Tigers have won at least one postseason contest.
Northeast opened the campaign at No. 25 in Street & Smith's preseason rankings and backed that up by winning 10 of its initial 11 matchups going into Christmas break, which featured regional triumphs over Baton Rouge (La.) Community College and Southern (La.) University at Shreveport.
Cord Wright's Tigers remained red hot upon their return from the holiday break and closed the month of January with six victories in a row. This vaulted Northeast, which eventually achieved a solid 19-7 record, into the NJCAA Division I poll at No. 23.
DeAnthony Tipler (Ashland) had a night to remember against Lawson State (Ala.) Community College during the Tigers' final game of December. He poured in 40 points on 13 of 23 shooting in a win over the Cougars.
Felix Hayes (Baldwyn) was a key asset with a number of brilliant performances during the second half of the campaign, including an unbelievable 31-point effort in Northeast's triumph versus Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at the MACJC State Tournament.
Hayes joined McDuffey on the MACJC All-State listing. Antares Gwyn (Corinth), Hayes and McDuffey all competed in the MACJC All-Star Game on the campus of East Central Community College.
Brenda Mayes and the women's basketball team echoed their male counterparts by qualifying for both the MACJC State Tournament and the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament and placing as the division runner-up.
Northeast boasted one of the top 20 scorers in the nation in Dayzsha Rogan (Ripley). She concluded her swan song campaign in the City of Hospitality with 19.1 points per game, which was tied for 17th in the NJCAA and second best in the state.
Rogan also paced the Lady Tigers with team-best averages of a 43.9 shooting percentage, a 75 free throw percentage, 33.7 minutes, five assists and 4.1 steals in 24 total appearances.
Cherelle Jones (Middleton, Tenn.) was the individual state rebounding champion with 11.4 per contest. She became the first Northeast standout since Bridgejae Patterson during the 2015-16 season to average a double-double for the entire year.
The Lady Tigers pulled off perhaps the biggest win of the school year by defeating then-No. 4 and previously unbeaten Shelton State (Ala.) Community College by a score of 76-73 just before the holiday hiatus.
Northeast began the fourth quarter trailing by nine points before piecing together an epic comeback. Rogan gave the Lady Tigers the lead for good on a driving layup with seven seconds remaining and then sealed the victory moments later with a steal and free throw.
Jones and Rogan were selected to the NJCAA All-Region 23 and MACJC All-State teams. They both wrapped up their tenure at Northeast by playing in the MACJC All-Star Game in Decatur.
Richy Harrelson's baseball club ended the regular season on fire and pushed rival Northwest Mississippi Community College to the brink in a NJCAA Region 23 best-of-three playoff series.
The Tigers captured 10 of their final 12 contests prior to their second straight postseason berth, including marquee road sweeps at Hinds Community College and then-No. 10 Meridian Community College.
Efficient pitching can be attributed to much of Northeast's success. The Tigers lowered their team earned run average (ERA) by nearly two whole points and struck out nearly 100 more batters in comparison to the 2018 staff.
Cooper Cox (Ripley) guided Northeast with a team-best 2.38 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 72 innings of work across 12 starts. He led the country with eight complete games while his eight wins were tied for sixth most in the MACJC.
The Tigers' offense certainly had its highlights as well. Northeast scored 10 or more runs in 15 games and racked up double-digit hits 17 times, including a season-high 18 base knocks during game two of the NJCAA Region 23 playoffs against Northwest.
Anthony Lipsey (Myrtle) became just the third Tiger in the last 20 years to hit 10 or more home runs in a single season along with Tucker Childers and Ricky Lambert. He blasted 11 homers, which was tied for sixth in the state.
Tyler Samaniego (Huntsville, Ala.), who directed Northeast with 58 hits and a .358 batting average, on-base percentage leader Hayes Hansford (Como), Cox and Lipsey all secured MACJC All-State distinction.
The football program featured some of the most elite athletes in the nation under headman Greg Davis. The Tigers' defense was headlined by three of the MACJC's top five tacklers in Terrance Edgeston (Falkner), Juwan Taylor (Jackson) and Williams.
Edgeston ranked fifth in the NJCAA and was the individual state champion with 10.4 tackles per game. Taylor was not far behind at all with an average of 10.2 stops, which was seventh best in the country and second in the conference.
Kortlon Hubbard (Jackson) worked his way into a key role in Northeast's offense. He had team-bests of 39 catches and five touchdowns plus finished second in the MACJC with 77.3 receiving yards per contest.
The Tigers notched a season-high 594 yards, including 382 yards through the air from quarterback Zac Oden (Montevallo, Ala.), during their visit to archrival Itawamba Community College. It was the most yards in a single matchup for Northeast in over a decade.
Kicker Michael Baugus (Corinth), offensive linemen Quan Stokes (Moultrie, Ga.) and Matthew Trehern (Saraland, Ala.), specialist Terrance Rowe (Aberdeen), Hubbard, Edgeston, Taylor and Williams all gained MACJC All-State prestige.
Chasity Moore entered her fourth year as coach of the cheerleading squad, which once again provided constant support for the Northeast athletic department and other high profile events on campus.
From pep rallies on Thursday afternoons in the fall to the final whistle inside legendary Bonner Arnold Coliseum, Northeast's cheerleaders were on duty to energize the home crowds and root on the Lady Tigers and Tigers.
Northeast tied a school-record with 40 total young men and women accumulating MACJC Academic All-State notoriety. Sixteen of those players also collected NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards.
Northeast also broke ground on the "Field of Dreams," which is its new $8.16 million home for the baseball and softball programs. The state-of-the-art facility will be ready for use by the start of the 2020 campaign.