80th Catfight is Saturday

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, October 28, 2010

One of the most storied rivalries in all of community college football hits the gridiron for the 80th time Saturday in Ellisville when Jones County hosts Pearl River in a huge MACJC South Division football battle for the visiting Wildcats.

PRCC, 5-3 overall and 4-1 in South Division play, enters the 2 p.m. contest off last week’s 37-19 Homecoming victory over Hinds and still holds a slim chance at making the MACJC post-season playoffs.

The Wildcats face a ‘must win’ scenario against the Bobcats and will need a bit of help, says ninth-year Pearl River head coach Tim Hatten.

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“We’ve got to win (over Jones) and Hinds has to beat (Mississippi) Gulf Coast…it’s that simple,” Hatten said. “If we win and Gulf Coast wins, there will be a three-way tie for first place in the South and we’ll be left out due to the tie-breaker thing.”

The Wildcats’ only division loss was to division-leading Copiah-Lincoln 21-14 Oct. 9, just one week after Pearl River handed Gulf Coast its sole division loss with a 30-27 overtime win in Poplarville. CLCC, 7-1 and 5-1, was crushed by MGCCC 23-3 Oct. 16 in Perkinston for its only loss of the season.

“But we can’t worry about things we can’t control,” Hatten continued. “We’ve got to take care of our own business first. If we don’t beat Jones, we’re totally out of the picture. That’s first and foremost on our agenda…take care of business and hope the cards fall our way.”

JCJC opened the season with a No. 19 ranking in the NJCAA’s preseason poll and quickly moved up to 11th with its season-opening 34-3 road victory over Mississippi Delta. After falling to Coahoma 26-24 the second week, the Bobcats fell out of the balloting and have seemingly been on a downward spiral ever since. Gulf Coast pulled off a 31-24 win in week three before Co-Lin followed with a 20-14 victory. JCJC rebounded with a 24-6 non-division win over still-winless Holmes on Sept. 30 before suffering three straight South Division defeats to Hinds 27-23, East Central 24-14, and Southwest Mississippi 14-13.

“Jones has had a tough run of luck,” Hatten said. “They lost to Hinds and Southwest by a combined total of five points. East Central beat them by 10, Co-Lin by six, and Gulf Coast by seven and they had to rally in the second half after trailing at halftime.”

Saturday’s ‘Cat Fight will pit Pearl River’s top-rated passing offense against Jones County’s top-rated pass defense. The Wildcats are averaging 310.8 yards a game through the air, while the Bobcats give up an average of 141.8 aerial yards.

PRCC’s rock-bottom 64.6 rushing yards a game plummets the Wildcats’ total offensive mark — 375 yards a game — to sixth in the league, while the Bobcats’ rank 10th in total offense with 306.1 yards a game (12th-best 118.4 rush, eighth-best 187.8 pass). JCJC’s rushing defense ranks 10th (152.3 yards a game), while Pearl River’s ranks sixth (147.6) and its passing defense 13th (214).

The Wildcats are next-to-last in total defense, giving up an average of 361.6 yards a game, but lead the league in turnover margin with a plus-nine. The Bobcats are even in TO margin and rank No. 11.

Pearl River leads its series with JCJC with 40 wins versus 37 losses (two ties) heading into this year’s match up.

Last year, the Wildcats won the statistical battle in lopsided fashion — 320 total offensive yards to the Bobcats’ 205 — but JCJC prevailed in lieu of a whopping five PRCC turnovers. The River had two interceptions inside Jones’ 10 and another pick and a lost fumble around the opponent’s 20.

In 2008, the then-10th-ranked Wildcats seemed destined for defeat when Emil Jones muffed a shotgun snap and Bobcat linebacker Demorio Leverette picked up the miscue and sped untouched to the end zone for a go-ahead score with 2:37 remaining in the game. JCJC quarterback Early James then passed to Anthony Jackson for the two-point conversion to give the then-third-ranked Bobcats a 22-19 edge.

But The River answered with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive for the win, capped by a four-yard shovel pass from Jones to now-Delta State Statesman Ray Chisholm with 1:02 left to give Jones its first loss of the year. In 2007, the then-fifth-ranked Bobcats put together a fourth-quarter rally to spoil the Wildcats’ Homecoming with a 33-28 setback, while in 2006, PRCC trailed the home-standing Bobcats 24-13 with under five minutes left, but rallied back with 15 unanswered points to hand their previously-undefeated hosts a heartbreaking 28-24 defeat.