PRCC facing Perk

Published 3:43 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

Special to the Item

POPLARVILLE — One of the most-heralded rivalries in the history of junior college football hits the gridiron for the 84th time this Thursday when third-ranked Pearl River travels to defending state champ Mississippi Gulf Coast in Perkinston for a 7 p.m. MACJC South Division battle in A.L. May Stadium.

The 4-0 Wildcats enter the game off a lopsided 45-3 home victory over Hinds to open its 2009 South Division schedule, while the ninth-ranked Bulldogs, 3-1, shocked then-second-ranked East Mississippi 43-26 in Scooba in last week’s only non-division bout. East Miss dropped to 13th in this week’s balloting.

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The last time the two arch-rivals met was in last year’s MACJC state championship game and the Bulldogs rolled to a 52-7 victory over the Wildcats, marking the worst defeat — by points — in the long history of Pearl River football.

“They had our number the last time we played them,” eighth-year PRCC head coach Hatten said. “And they’ll be ready to go come Thursday. We’ve just got to avoid turnovers, maintain the offensive production we’ve had so far, play defense like we’re capable of, and we’ll be okay.

“Gulf Coast is a good team, but we are to.”

Hatten says MGCCC, better known as “Perk” in Mississippi Juco circles, is “going to be your typical Pearl River-Perk football game.

“They’re coming in off a big non-division win (East Miss) and (Perk head coach) Steve Campbell has got his guys playing at a high level,” Hatten said. “They’re a very competitive team that plays hard from start to finish.”

The Bulldogs opened their season with a 30-25 non-division loss to now-15th-ranked Northwest Mississippi in a four-turnover-plagued contest in Perkinston, but bounced back in startling fashion with a 63-9 non-division home blowout over Itawamba. Week three saw Gulf Coast cruise to a 33-16 road win over Southwest Mississippi in Summit to open both squad’s South Division schedules.

“They’ve lost to Northwest, we’ve beaten Northwest (38-35 win), but I can’t say who (Northwest or Gulf Coast) is better than the other,” he added. “Actually, those two teams are about the same, but in different ways.”

The River, which received one first-place vote in this week’s top 20 poll and is the only unbeaten team remaining in the MACJC, enters the Perk battle off a dominating 45-3 victory over Hinds to open its South Division schedule. PRCC kicked off its season with a lopsided 45-7 road win over Holmes in Goodman, then followed with a 42-23 pasting of Northeast Mississippi in Poplarville before staving off a Northwest Mississippi second-half turnaround to win 38-35 in Senatobia.

Thursday’s match up will pit two teams with virtually identical offensive numbers thus far into the season. Pearl River boasts a second-best 501.3-yard per-game average in total offense in the MACJC to Gulf Coast’s third-best 497.3.

Perk is first in rushing offense (305.5 yard per game) to PRCC’s No. 3 ranking (208.3), while the Wildcats are third in passing offense (293) to MGCCC’s No. 5 ranking (196.8).

Defensively, the Bulldogs are as stingy as you can get against the run, limiting its four foes thus far to a meager 39.7 yards (93 total) a game, while the Wildcats rank fifth in rushing defense at 121 yards per game. Pearl River’s pass defense ranks seventh (189 yards per game) to Gulf Coast’s No. 11 ranking (263.8).

In total defense, the Bulldogs are No. 3 (303.5), while the Wildcats are tied at No. 6 (310) with Hinds.

MGCCC boasts the state’s top rusher in running back Vick Ballard, while PRCC’s Rashod Henry of Lumberton High is second. Ballard has ran for 627 yards (156.8 yards per game) on 106 carries (5.9-yard average) to Henry’s 560 (140 per game) on 57 attempts (9.8-yard average). Ballard’s numbers rank fifth nationally, while Henry’s are seventh.

Henry ran for 170 yards and two scores against Hinds last week, in addition to 100 return yards on two kickoff returns.

Wildcat signal caller Emil Jones of North Forrest is second in the state and third in the nation in passing, connecting on 86 of 135 attempts (63 percent) for 1,172 yards (293-yard per game average) for 10 touchdowns (four interceptions); while Bulldog Greg Jenkins ranks fifth in the league and 18th nationally. The sophomore has completed 53 of 81 throws (65.4 percent) for 774 yards (193.5 per game) for eight scores (one interception).

Jones is also third in the nation in individual total offense with 1,274 yards (318.5 per game), while Jenkins is fifth with 1,016 (254 per game), which includes 242 rushing yards. Jones has ran for 102 yards thus far this season.

PRCC wide receiver Desmond Ratliff caught six passes last week versus Hinds, but was held to only 28 yards, but the sophomore from Canton still leads the state and nation in receiving yards with 513 (128 per game) and is tops in the league in receptions with 31 (7.8 per game). Freshman Willie Downs of Tallahassee, Fla., is

third in receiving yardage and receptions — 326 yards (81.5 per game) and 20 catches (five per game), respectively — and had five catches for a team-high 54 yards against Hinds.

On the defensive side, Bulldog linebacker Jacoby Bell and Wildcat defensive end Daniel Hayden are tied for second in the league in quarterback sacks with five each.

The Pearl River-Perk Rivalry

The Pearl River-Perk rivalry dates back to 1926 when the Wildcats took a 6-0 victory in the inaugural match-up. PRCC won 10 straight until Gulf Coast took a 26-6 win in 1936, then followed with a second win in 1939.

In 1942, the two teams didn’t play after the season was shortened to only four games due to the country’s involvement in World War II, while the entire 1943 season was cancelled. Junior college football play resumed in 1944 and the two teams battled to a 7-7 deadlock, then the Bulldogs won 6-0 in 1945.

A year later, legendary Wildcat head coach Dobie Holden arrived on the scene and turned in a 7-6 victory, then followed in 1947 with a 2-0 victory — the lowest-scoring game in Pearl River history. Perk rebounded the following year with a narrow 20-19 decision, but the Wildcats answered the setback by reeling off 17 straight wins before the Bulldogs wiped out the Wildcats 33-0 in 1966 in Holden’s last season.

Gulf Coast won three straight before Holden successor, John Russell, won 35-0 in 1969 and 12-7 in 1970. The Bulldogs were 37-21 winners in 1971, but the Wildcats pulled off a thrilling 22-21 victory in 1972 and a 10-3 win in 1973 in Russell’s last season at PRCC.

>From 1974 through 1986, Gulf Coast won 11 of 13 under long-time head coach George Sekul, who is the winningest coach in junior college history, but PRCC rebounded with seven straight, including 1993’s 64-20 blowout, before the Bulldogs won 25-14 in 1994.

Pearl River took a 21-14 win in 1995 in Keith Daniels’ first season at the Wildcat helm, but Perk won 27-23 in 1996. In 1997, the rivalry saw the high-scoring 61-55 battle that boasted numerous record-breaking individual and team efforts. Gulf Coast won three straight until last year’s lopsided victory in Poplarville.

In 2001, the Wildcats celebrated Homecoming in grand style with a record-setting 52-9 blowout over the Bulldogs behind then-head coach Scott Maxfield’s touted “air raid” offense which was tops in the nation in 2001. Pearl River finished that game with 661 total offensive yards (second highest in history) and a record 35 first downs behind the talents of All-American quarterback Charlie Reeve.

Besides Reeve’s throwing antics in the 2001 game, PRCC boasted two 100-yard rushers in Kris Cannon and Kiel Angry. Cannon amassed 182 yards of total offense against the Bulldogs, including a career-high 122 yards on the ground. Angry finished the afternoon with 109 yards.

The Wildcats took a muddy, come-from-behind 42-41 victory in Perkinston in 2002; then bounced back with a 38-0 blowout in Poplarville in 2003’s state championship season.

The Bulldogs won a high-scoring 55-47 regular-season thriller in 2005; snapping a record 23-game winning streak by then-defending NJCAA national champion PRCC. But the Wildcats avenged the setback a month later with a hard-fought 25-19 victory in the MACJC title bout for the state championship.

In 2006, a standing-room-only crowd estimated at 8,000-plus packed Holden Stadium in a battle between the rivals ranked first (PRCC) and third (MGCCC) in the NJCAA with the Wildcats taking a 36-22 victory. In 2007, Gulf Coast took a hard-fought 24-17 win over The River amidst the muck and mud of A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston in both squads’ South Division openers, while the Bulldogs used a late touchdown to trim the Wildcats 10-3 in Poplarville in last season’s regular-season match up.

PRCC leads the series with an impressive 53-29-1 mark and has won or shared an unprecedented 19 MACJC titles, while Gulf Coast has won or shared 13. The Bulldogs have won four national championships in 1970, 1982, and 1984 under Sekul and 2007’s co-title with Butler (Kan.) under Campbell. PRCC has won national titles in 1961 and 2004 when the Wildcats took a 52-26 victory over the Bulldogs in Poplarville.

The Wildcats won or shared four straight state titles from 1924 through 1928. In 1928, PRCC shared the championship with Sunflower (now Mississippi Delta) and now-defunct Clarke. Pearl River won three straight championships from 1958 through 1961 and were co-champs with Northwest Mississippi in 1960.

South Division power Hinds won four straight titles from 1994 through 1997, while Northwest Mississippi won four over a span of six years from 1987 through 1992.

Last Week Around The League

In other South Division action last week, Jones County (2-2, 2-0) smacked East Central (1-3, 0-2) 32-10 in Decatur and Copiah-Lincoln (2-2, 1-1) trimmed rival Southwest Mississippi (1-3, 0-2) in Summit. In the North, 18th-ranked Northwest Mississippi (3-1, 1-0) blanked Itawamba (1-2, 0-2) 35-0 in Fulton, Holmes (1-3, 1-1) picked up its first win with a 30-14 win over Coahoma (3-1, 1-1) in Goodman, and Mississippi Delta (1-3, 1-1) finally got into the victory column with a hard-fought 14-7 win over Northeast Mississippi (1-3, 1-1) in Moorhead.

This Week Around The League

Other Thursday games in the South Division include East Central at Southwest Mississippi in Summit and Hinds at Jones County in Ellisville, while in the North, Northwest Mississippi hosts East Mississippi in Senatobia, Northeast Mississippi hosts Holmes in Booneville, and Itawamba hosts Mississippi Delta in Fulton. This week’s only non-division contest is set for Saturday with Copiah-Lincoln at Coahoma in Clarksdale.

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 Jeff Lossett 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-MGCCC broadcast is 6:30 p.m. In addition, you may also listen to the Wildcats over the internet by logging on to Click on the icon at the bottom left of the screen, and follow the instructions