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PRCC opens up tonight

The No. 1-ranked Pearl River Wildcats begin their quest for a fifth-straight MACJC state championship here Thursday when they kick off the 2007 football season against non-division rival Mississippi Delta at 7 p.m. in Dobie Holden Stadium.
PRCC won its four-straight state title a year ago marking the first such feat in the league in nearly a decade and enters its 2007 campaign atop the NJCAA’s preseason poll for the third consecutive season.
Will the Wildcats make it five-in-a-row? Sixth-year head coach Tim Hatten says the Trojans are the first step towards accomplishing that goal.
“But we’re like everybody else in this league,” he said. “You know very little, if anything, about the opposition going in…you basically go in blind. I know we’ll have to check things out in the first quarter and make some necessary adjustments, but we’re ready to get things going.
“But (MDCC head coach ) Jay (Miller) is in the same boat,” he continued. “He’s a good football coach, but knows very little about our personnel at this point. He always does a good job getting good players into camp and seems to always have a good, competitive team that can give you problems. He’ll have his guys ready to play.”
After falling to the Wildcats 43-6 to open 2006, MDCC reeled off three straight wins  but faded down the stretch behind an offense that scored more than 14 points only twice the entire year. The Trojans finished the year at 4-5 overall and 3-3 in North Division play.
“We’ve got to shore up the quarterback spot,” Hatten said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re where we need to be there.”
Lance Cuevas, a recruit from St. Stanislaus, is the current frontrunner at the position, but Hatten said the redshirt freshman needs to play well early as Southwest Mississippi CC transfer Theo Wilson is waiting in the wings.
“I’m confident that Lance will get the job done. His decision making is about as good as it gets, but playing under fire is a whole different ball game,” Hatten said. “Theo’s such a great athlete and playmaker, he’ll be out there regardless catching throws. We’ll see what happens. I know that our playmakers are going to have to make plays.”
Defensively, the Wildcats should shine brilliantly in 2007.
“We’re going to have to rely on our defense early in the year to give us time to get our identity on offense,” Hatten explained. “We’re expecting it to be one of the best, if not the best, we’ve ever had here.”
Sophomore linebacker Keon Wilson of Miami, Fla., who has already verbally committed to the Miami Hurricanes, anchors the defense and is joined by redshirt freshmen backers Hendrick Leverette of Oak Grove and Tim Rawlinson of Prattville, Ala. Leverette redshirted at Auburn a year ago.
“Those three are special players,” Hatten said. “But they’re complimented by an experienced down line and secondary.”
Sophomore down guys Alex Ford of Presbyterian Christian, Malcomb Keys of Hattiesburg High, Thomas Robinson of Oak Grove, and Aaron Williams of Ridgeland are back in the lineup, while second-year Dbs Brandon Burns of Columbiana, Ala., Terrence Handy of Jackson Provine, and Josh Wiley of Hattiesburg High anchor the secondary.
The Wildcats trimmed Copiah-Lincoln 21-20 for its 19th state title last November, then wrapped up their season with a heartbreaking 19-6 loss to Blinn (Tex.) in the Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl in the national championship game.
The PRCC-MDCC Rivalry
The Wildcat_Trojan rivalry eyes its 44th match up this Thursday and dates back to the 1920s with Pearl River holding a 28_12_2 edge. The two schools even shared a tri_state championship with Clarke College in 1928 back when MDCC was called Sunflower Junior College.
Pearl River won 1999’s match_up in Poplarville 24_8, putting an end to four straight wins by Mississippi Delta. PRCC lost 19_10 loss in Moorhead in 1998, while the Trojans won every year from 1993 through 1995. The River won 42_13 in 1992.
During the 1990s, the two teams played six times with MDCC winning four, while the 1980s saw PRCC with a 5_1 winning edge over the Trojans. In 1981, Pearl River played Mississippi Delta twice. The Wildcats won 27_14 in the season opener, then repeated their effort in the first round of the state playoffs winning 19_7. PRCC fell 31_6 to Holmes in the state championship game that year.
The 1970s saw a 5_1_1 mark the Wildcats’ way. In 1973, Pearl River trimmed the Trojans 17_14 in Moorhead during the regular season, but Delta got payback in the state title game in Poplarville, winning 21_17.
In the two teams’ 2000 meeting, Pearl River took a 16-6 victory via a two-TD performance by defensive back Jesse Parker; marking the first season-opening win for the Wildcats since 1997.
The Wildcats took a hard-fought 39-14 victory over the Trojans in PRCC’s national and state championship season in 2004, a lopsided 51-14 win in 2005, and a 43-6 victory last year in Moorhead.
This Week’s Openers Around The League
Other season-opening games around the league (all Thursday) includes Coahoma hosting Hinds in Clarksdale, defending North Division champ Northwest Mississippi hosting defending South Division champ Copiah-Lincoln in Senatobia, East Mississippi hosting East Central in Scooba, Holmes hosting Mississippi Gulf Coast in Goodman, Southwest Mississippi hosting Itawamba at Summit, and Jones County hosting Northeast Mississippi in Ellisville.
Wildcats Over The Airwaves
All Pearl River games are broadcast live on WMXI-FM (98.1) in Hattiesburg, WFFF-FM (96.7) in Columbia, WBOX-FM (92.9) and WBOX-AM (920) in Bogalusa, La.; and WRJW-AM (1320) in Picayune. Long-time play-by-play announcer Jason Baker, color commentator Clay Sweet, and sideline reporter Barry Harper will handle the broadcast. With the college’s new state-of-the-art in-stadium broadcast set up, fans can listen to all games (home and road) by tuning in to 88.1 on their FM dial. Airtime for Thursday’s PRCC-MDCC broadcast is 6:30 p.m. In addition, you may also listen to the Wildcats over the internet by logging on to www.prcc.edu. Click on the icon at the bottom left of the screen, and follow the instructions.