PRCC has tough road test

Published 2:45 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pearl River Community College opens its football season Thursday night in one of the biggest juco battles in the nation this week.

The Wildcats, ranked eighth in the nation, travel to Senatobia to face defending North Division champion Northwest. The Rangers are ranked ninth in the nation.

 “As good as they (Northwest) are year in and year out, we’ll both know where we stand after that first game,” PRCC head coach Tim Hatten said. “They’re the  defending North Division champions and pounced us pretty good (27-17) last year at our place. We’ll have our hands full.

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The Rangers upset the 13th-ranked Wildcats 27-17 last year in Poplarville, snapping a six-game losing streak. Pearl River leads the all-time series 26-10 and has now been ranked in six consecutive meetings. Fourteen days later, the Rangers will welcome No. 16 East Mississippi to Senatobia, with the Lions looking to avenge a 25-19 loss in 2010.

“You could be 0-3 and have a real good team,” Northwest head coach RickyWoods said. “We need to start good early like we did last year. Anytime you have Pearl River, East Central and East Mississippi on your schedule, it’s pretty good. There have been years when we started out with Pearl River and Gulf Coast, so it’s never easy. Anyone can beat you any given week.”

Northwest returns just one starter on offense and two on defense, turning towards a very talented but inexperienced freshman class and a handful of transfers. In all, the Rangers have 43 new members on the squad this year. But the Rangers should be bolstered by what Woods calls his “most talented recruiting class since he’s been here,”

In other season openers — all Thursday night non-division battles — around the MACJC, Coahoma hosts 19th-ranked and defending South Division  champ Copiah-Lincoln in Clarksdale, Northeast Mississippi hosts East Central in Booneville, 16th-ranked East Mississippi hosts second-ranked and defending state champ Mississippi Gulf Coast in Scooba, Hinds hosts Itawamba in Raymond, Southwest Mississippi  hosts Holmes in Summit, and Jones County hosts Mississippi Delta in Ellisville.