Pearl River wins season openerBy STAN CALDWELL,
POPLARVILLE – For the first time in a long time, Dobie Holden Stadium felt like home for Pearl River Community College football.
The Wildcats snapped an 11-game, three-year losing streak in their home stadium Thursday night with a thrilling 27-21 victory over ninth-ranked Northeast Mississippi to open the 2017 season.
“The attitude of our kids is that we’re going to play until the clock says zero,” said Wildcat head coach Ted Egger. “We told our kids that we were going to win this football game, and I can’t be any prouder of them.”
The win was PRCC’s first at home since a 28-14 win over Holmes on Sept. 4, 2014.
Freshman Ron Thompson (Bassfield) ran 18 yards for his third score of the night, putting PRCC ahead with 33 seconds to play, and the Wildcat defense stopped the Tigers’ final desperation Hail Mary as the clock ran out.
“Our offensive line was still fresh in the fourth quarter, and we just did what we had to do,” said Thompson, who ran 20 times for 124 yards, 102 in the second half. He also caught 2 passes, both for touchdowns of 22 and 6 yards.
“I live for moments like that. I saw the opening and knew I had to come through for my team.”
Pearl River showed off a balanced attack that gained 404 yards, including 247 on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Agner (Woodstock, Ga.) completed 19 of 32 passes for 157 yards and three TDs, as PRCC totaled 404 yards of offense.
Redshirt sophomore Malcom Staten (Hancock) caught eight passes for 65 yards and the Wildcats’ first score of the night on a 13-yard pass play.
PRCC’s first score came after the Wildcats recovered fumbles on back-to-back Tiger possessions in the first quarter.
They couldn’t do anything with the first turnover, but cashed in the second after Agner escaped a sack attempt, then rolled to his left, finding Staten in the near corner of the end zone. Mark Johnson (Bay) kicked the PAT to give the Wildcats the early lead.
“I thought this was well-deserved,” said Staten, a three-year player in the program who redshirted in 2015 and played sparingly last season.
“We’ve got a good group of freshman who have come in; we’ve all worked hard. (Egger) has instilled some self-discipline and guys are doing what they need to do.”
The Wildcats came right back on their next possession, after a three-and-out, driving 59 yards in nine plays. Agner hooked up with Thompson coming out of the backfield for a 22-yard scoring play, and Johnson’s kick made it 14-0 with 18 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Northeast finally got its offense going late in the first half, cutting the Wildcat margin to 14-7 with 22 seconds left in the half, and the Tigers kept the momentum with a touchdown on their first possession of the second half.
The score was still tied 14-14 heading into the dramatic final period. After stopping Northeast on a fourth-and-1 from the Wildcat 35, PRCC drove smartly down the field on an 11-play scoring drive.
Staying mostly on the ground, the Wildcats scoring on a 6-yard pass from Agner to Thompson. Johnson’s third PAT of the night made it 21-14 with 10:03 to play.
The Tigers roared back in a hurry, though, scoring on a 54-yard pass play, and after an exchange of three-and-outs, disaster struck for Pearl River when Agner was picked off after driving into Tiger territory.
The return carried to the Wildcat 24, but once again the defense stood tall, stopping the Tigers on fourth-and-4 from the PRCC 18.
“We played like we were taught,” said sophomore linebacker Chase Crosby (Harrison Central), who led the Wildcats with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. “We got a little slack in the middle of the game, but when we came together at the end, they couldn’t get past us.”
That sparked the Wildcats on the game-winning drive. Agner, who gained 43 yards on 11 runs, converted a third down and a fourth down on runs of 5 yards and 4 yards, to keep the drive alive.
Thompson then ran for 11 yards to the Tiger 21, and on second-and-3 from the 18, burst around right end, broke a tackle and motored into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Johnson missed the PAT, though, giving Northeast some hope, and the Tigers took advantage of soft coverage to set up at the Wildcat 40 for the final play of the game.
The pass got to the goal line, but sophomore Jordan Mims (Pascagoula) knocked the ball down to seal the victory.
“This was the epitome of a team win,” Egger said. “Everyone did their part. We played it correctly. We played the clock correctly right to the end. Man, what a great win.”
The Wildcats will be back in action again at 6 p.m. next Thursday, when they host sixth-ranked Northwest Mississippi.
PRCC GAME SUMMARY
Thursday at Poplarville
Pearl River 27, Northeast 21
Northeast 0 7 7 7 -- 21
Pearl River 14 0 0 14 -- 27
PR – Malcom Staten 13 pass from Justin Agner (Mark Johnson kick), 4:33 (3 plays/16 yards/2:11 possession).
PR – Ron Thompson 22 pass from Agner (Johnson kick), 0:18 (9/59/3:05)
NE – Jalen Cobbs 10 run (Will Lang kick), 0:22 (9/67/3:31).
NE – Kenzie Phillips 8 run (Lang kick), 6:25 (5/70/1:58).
PR – Thompson 6 pass from Agner (Johnson kick), 10:03 (11/65/4:57).
NE – O.D. Wooten 54 pass from Oden (Lang kick), 9:26 (3/60/0:37).
PR – Thompson 18 run (kick failed), 0:33 (11/82/4:04).
First downs 15 25
Total net yards 369 404
Rushes-yards 35-153 50-247
Passing yards 216 157
Comp-Att-Int 15-26-0 19-33-1
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-70 13-128
Punts-avg 5-30.2 5-32.8
Sacks-yards 2-2 0-0
Third down 5-12 8-18
Fourth down 0-2 2-3
Time of possession 23:50 36:10
Northeast – Kenzie Phillips 24-93, Zac Oden 6-36, Jalen Cobbs 4-23, Zykeris Mosley 1-1; Pearl River – Ron Thompson 20-124, Justin Agner 11-43, Chandler Roberts 11-31, Jesse Pernell 7-37, Markevion Quinn 1-6.
Northeast – Zac Oden 15-26-0-216; Pearl River – Justin Agner 19-32-1-157, Markevion Quinn 0-1-0-0.
Northeast – Toreano Minor 5-66, O.D. Wooten 3-78, Ross Painter 3-46, Kenzie Phillips 2-20, Ricardo Henry 1-6; Pearl River – Malcom Staten 8-65, Jakwaize Walker 4-26, Ron Thompson 2-28, Shakeenen West 2-22, Tyler Polk 2-9, Jesse Pernell 1-7.