PCS runs past West MarionBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – A close contest at halftime turned in PCS’ favor quickly in the second half thanks to a stout rushing attack and timely defense, as the Bobcats earned a 38-18 win in the regular season opener Thursday night.
“Tonight went according to everything, and we took care of the football with new guys running the ball,” PCS coach Joey Hawkins said.
As the Bobcats led 17-12 late in the third quarter, West Marion decided to go for it on fourth down at midfield, but the Bobcats’ defense had a pass breakup to give them the ball back on West Marion’s 44-yard line.
It took two plays for junior Alden Rhian to find the end zone from 38 yards out, and that pushed the lead to 24-12. That’s just how the ground game was working, and PCS never looked back after that quick scoring drive.
A total of seven PCS running backs totaled 425 yards and four touchdowns, but most of the production came from Rhian and senior Sheldon James.
(SIDEBAR: Splitting carries works to perfection)
James recorded 235 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns on 21 carries, and Rhian finished the night with 148 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts.
“(James) deserves this,” PCS coach Joey Hawkins said. “He’s worked for us three years and carried the ball 51 total times last year. Now that Isaiah (Woullard) left, him and Alden have to step up, and we got big-time play from our tailbacks.”
The scoring started on the first drive of the game for PCS, too. After James recorded a couple of carries, Rhian took the ball 42 yards down the field to set up junior Brandon Thornton’s touchdown pass to sophomore Eric Robinson.
Thornton’s pass was a jump ball to the right corner of the end zone, and Thompson reached up and made the catch while battling two West Marion defenders to give the Bobcats a quick 7-0 lead.
“Eric Robinson is going to be a big-time playmaker for us,” Hawkins said. “We wanted to get the ball to him a few more times tonight, but it didn’t call for it. We have to keep building to where guys can make plays.”
West Marion marched down the field on 11 straight rushing plays to cut it to 7-6 on the next drive. Trojan quarterback Jeremiah Holmes finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
But, James began his highlight-reel game by adding a 53-yard touchdown run on the team’s next possession to extend the lead to 14-6. The play came on the team’s fourth play of the drive.
Again, though, West Marion answered with another touchdown drive, capping it off with a 31-yard, screen pass and catch from Holmes to Cyrus Thompson.
PCS started to drive when it got the ball back, but an interception in the end zone ended any hope of extending the lead. West Marion couldn’t do anything on the ensuing possession, and the two teams went into the half with PCS leading 14-12.
The second half started with the game’s first punt, coming from West Marion, then when PCS lined up to punt on its next drive, Hawkins called a fake. Senior punter Jack Runnels took the snap and found Tyson Keys over the middle for a 19-yard gain.
Even some of the PCS players in the play didn’t know Hawkins called a fake punt.
“They didn’t, and that’s normal,” Hawkins said. “… I’m old and I’m not scared of nothing, so that’s why we did it.”
That set up a 35-yard field from O’Neill Walters to make it a 17-12 game.
The defense made the big fourth-down stop at midfield, and Rhian’s touchdown extended the lead even more, but James, again, stole the show in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown and a 75-yard touchdown to make it a 38-18 game.
“We were trying to play rope-a-dope, stay in the game and we were trying to be fresher with six minutes to go in third (quarter), and we were,” Hawkins said.
West Marion added a touchdown between James’ two touchdowns, which was an 80-yard touchdown pass from Holmes to Noland Miller.
PCS (1-0) hits the road next Friday for a game against Columbia at 7 p.m.
The Bobcats haven’t lost a regular season game since Oct. 16, 2015.