PRCC opens tonight

Published 11:32 pm Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pearl River Community College football Wildcats are aiming all out for redemption in 2008.

After winning four straight MACJC state championships (2003 through 2006) and an NJCAA national title in 2004, The River’s 6-3 overall and 3-3 South Division record wasn’t good enough for it to even make the post-season cut a year ago and the Wildcats sat at home during the post-season for the first time since seventh-year head coach Tim Hatten took over the reins of the program in 2002.

But Hatten, who is 53-10 over the past six seasons, says this year’s talented unit is up to the task of returning to the top of the state Juco heap.

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The first step towards that goal starts Thursday in renovated Dobie Holden Stadium in Poplarville when MACJC non-division rival Holmes visits for both teams’ season opener.

“We’re ready to go,” Hatten said. “After putting in all the hard work and sweat of preseason drills, the guys and our coaching staff are ready to get down to business.”

Thursday’s battle marks the third-straight season and the 45th time in history that the Wildcats and Bulldogs have faced off on the gridiron with PRCC taking a hard-fought 29-14 victory last year in Poplarville

Long-time Holmes assistant coach Danny Robertson took over the program last season following the retirement of legendary head coach Hugh Shurden (now HCC’s athletic director), but times were tough as the Bulldogs went 1-8 and got their solitary win with a 13-0 decision over North Division foe Northeast Mississippi the last week of the season.

“They (Holmes) were a scrappy bunch last year and we were fortunate to pull out our win (29-14) against them,” Hatten said. “Actually, they outgained us offensively (236 yards to 212) and wound up with two more first downs (15 to 13) than us.

“I look for them to be much improved this go around.”

Two of the Bulldogs’ losses last season came in overtime in back-to-back weeks with Northwest Mississippi pulling out a 19-13 decision in three OTs in both team’s North Division opener, while league rival East Mississippi was a 31-30 winner in overtime. HCC’s other division losses included a 20-17 heartbreaker to Coahoma, a 24-17 loss to North champ Itawamba, and a 36-29 defeat to Mississippi Delta.

“Holmes played practically everybody tough,” Hatten said. “They hung tough with (Mississippi) Gulf Coast in their opener last year (a 30-14 loss) and Perk went on to win the state and share the national title.”