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SCOOBA, Miss. (WCBI Sports) – East Mississippi Community College is gearing up for another season.

Mississippi gridiron preview annual has EMCC winning the MACJC’s north division. Head coach buddy stephens’ squad has won four of the last five championships.

The Lions have had a lot of success on the gridiron. This year’s team says the 2011 national championship is still on their minds.

“Yeah, we’re trying to get back down there [to the national championship]. We have high expectations,” sophomore running back Lakenderic Thomas said. Thomas went to West Point high school. “We’re trying to do the same thing [that team] did. They were very humble and hungry. We’re trying to get that same fire in us.”

“I feel like we have a target on our backs just because we were number one just a couple years ago and we still are top ranked so everybody wants to beat us,” Byerson Cockrell said. The sophomore attended Columbus high school. “Our mindset is good. We all come together as a family. We know what it takes to achieve our goals.”

There were high expectations in 2012 but two-straight losses to end the season quickly dissipated any hopes for a repeat.

“It hurt man. I couldn’t believe it, I was shocked,” Thomas said. “At West Point, when I was coming up, we didn’t lose a lot so when we lost it kind of hurt me. It made my hungry for success.”

“It was very disappointing. We had all the talent in the world,” Blake Sharp said. The sophomore went to Heritage Academy. “We had a ton of guys that signed division I scholarships. And this is probably one of the most talented groups [coach Stephens] has seen in a while. We just look good up front this year, very athletic. I’m very excited about it.”

“They have one expectation and that’s great effort because that’s what’s going to win us more games than anything that I could draw on the board,” first-year defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “So that’s been our focus. Football is still a simple game.”

EMCC starts the year at Pearl River next Thursday.

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