SCOOBA, Miss. (WTVA) -- One the premiere community college football programs in Mississippi canceled its football season because of the coronavirus. East Mississippi Community College Head Coach Buddy Stephens said there is a possibility to play in the spring but for right now, he's holding his players health and safety above playing football.
"You know when we recruit these young men, we promise them that we are going to take care of them," Coach Stephens said. "We promise their families that we are going to take care of them."
2020 is Coach Stephens' 13th season as head coach of the EMCC football program. During that time, the Lions have won five national championships and he's amassed a 115-16 record.
It's safe to say the game of football means a lot to him, but even with all that, he made the call to cancel the season.
Players are still coming back to campus for class. As far as football goes, Coach Stephens said he's going to do what he can to get his players prepared for the next level, while limiting the chances of contracting the virus.
"When you take those masks off and you put the helmet on and you have more of a chance of transferring that COVID," Stephens said. "I think that's the biggest thing, our campus and our campus protocol is really, really, tight and second to none."
Coach Stephens said the hardest part of cancelling the season is knowing the difficult decisions it puts on the sophomores. Players, who are using this semester to try to get a scholarship at Division I program. Former Corinth High School standout Zachary Patterson is one of those sophomores. He said, without a season, it makes his journey a bit more difficult, but he said he and his teammates support his coach s decision.
"Really we've all been on the same page, telling each other keep our heads up and it'll get better at the end," Patterson said. "He really made the best decision for all of us to keep us safe."