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Pearl River’s ‘thankful’ heading into 2020 finale

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River’s 2020 football season will conclude Thursday with the completion of the Wildcats’ game at Hinds. 

Kickoff in Raymond is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

To have gotten to this point after so much uncertainty in the spring and summer is a major accomplishment, first-year coach Seth Smith said. 

“I’m just thankful. We’re incredibly appreciative of (the players). As of right now, we’re the only school in the state that hasn’t missed a game and that’s a credit to our guys,” Smith said. “They have done a great job of taking care of themselves and taking care of the team. I have a ton of admiration and appreciation for our sophomores. They didn’t have to, but they have had a great attitude and bought into what we have asked. 

“They have done a good job of helping us try to move this program forward and for that we’re incredibly grateful.”

The reason PRCC (2-3 overall) has played all of its games is simple, Smith said.

“They’re the reason we haven’t missed a game,” he said. “They have done what we have asked and because of that we’ve been able to play.”

COVID-19 has heavily impacted Hinds’ schedule. Most recently, last week’s game against ECCC was cancelled due to “concerns” with the Warriors football program.

As such, HCC heads into Thursday having only played three games. After falling to Gulf Coast in overtime in their season opener, Hinds has defeated Jones College and Southwest.

“Hinds is a very athletic team,” Smith said. “They’re the epitome of a spread team. They spread you out with great athletes, get you in space and their quarterback does a good job of running and throwing.

“Defensively, they play hard, they’re very athletic and have a lot of speed.”

SCOUTING HINDS
The Bulldogs boast one of the premiere one-two punches in the MACCC with quarterback BeSean McCray and running back Dajon Richard.

In only three games, McCray has thrown for 702 yards with four touchdowns. He has also rushed for 132 yards and two TDs.

“The biggest thing like them with a quarterback that’s mobile is you need to cover longer than normal,” Smith said. “If we contain him in the pocket, we’ll be fine. But if the pocket breaks down and he gets loose, that’s when he creates problems.

“He’s like you play on PlayStation — he goes to the left, goes to the right and bam, he’s gone. For us, we have to contain him.”

Richard has gashed teams thus far. Through three games, the freshman running back has rushed for 280 yards and two scores. Robert Jackson III is third on Hinds with 105 rushing yards and one TD. Backup QB Kobe Dillon has only passed for seven yards, but he’s rushed for 53 and two TDs.

Six Bulldogs have at least five receptions with seven totaling more than 50 yards through the air. Richard leads the team with 12 receptions and has 73 yards. Jakarius Caston has 10 catches for a team-high 153 yards. Deontez White is the other Bulldog to eclipse the century mark; he has nine catches for 102 yards.

Jaylen Heffner leads the HCC defense with 17 tackles.

ABOUT THE WILDCATS
The Wildcats are coming off their best offensive game since scoring 37 points at Southwest two years ago. PRCC heads into the finale with a fairly balanced attack, averaging 206.2 yards on the ground and 195.6 through the air. 

“It has definitely been an evolution on offense this season and has evolved more into what we hoped it would be with more balance and the ability to both run and throw,” Smith said. “Early in the year we relied heavily on throwing the ball. Now we have gotten to the point where we can run more, which in turn helps our defense.”

A big reason for the improved play on offense has been the maturation of the offensive line. Outside of Hayden West (Leakesville; Greene County) all of the other Wildcat linemen are freshmen.

“The biggest thing with them is experience,” Smith said. “They’re all freshmen except for the center. Each game they have gotten better and better and better. They’re a very cohesive group and Coach (David) Chatham has done a great job with them.”

Jakob Greer (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus) was named the Forrest General Wildcat of the Week for the second time this season after turning in a career game against Southwest. In the 37-26 win, Greer threw for 214 yards, rushed for 166 and accounted for three touchdowns.

On the year, Greer has passed for 584 yards. His six passing touchdowns rank second in the conference. He has also rushed for a team-high 239 yards.

Behind Greer in the backfield, PRCC has gotten it done by committee with four other players rushing for at least 145 yards. Chris Holifield Jr. (Mobile, Ala.; Leflore) has 205 yards and one TD. Will Young (Hurley; East Central) has rushed for 199 and a team-high three scores. QB Austin Davidson (Meridian; West Lauderdale) has rushed for 161 and two TDs, while Nick Milsap has come on strong lately, collecting 145 yards and two TDs.

PRCC’s receiving corps have shared the ball plenty, but two Wildcats have emerged as go-to targets. Latreal Jones (Taylorsville) leads the state in receptions (31) and receiving yards (387). He also has two TDs on the season. Liberty commit Stetson Moore (Philadelphia) leads PRCC with three TDs on 12 receptions and 209 yards. Holifield has shown versatility out of the backfield, catching 13 passes for 114 yards and a TD. Tavion Smith (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) rounds out PRCC’s receiving leaders. The freshman has nine receptions for 137 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, Noah Mitchell (Leakesville; Greene County) is the runaway leader in the MACCC. Through five games, Mitchell has 68 tackles — 15 more than the next player — and is averaging 13.6 per contest. He has also recorded a league-high 8.5 tackles-for-loss with 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions.

Teammate Luther Woullard II (Petal) isn’t far behind on the MACCC leaderboard with 40 total tackles. 

STREAMING + RADIO
PRCCMedia.com is the digital home for Pearl River Wildcat Athletics in 2020-21. In addition to PRCCMedia.com, fans with a Roku or Amazon Fire device can also stream PRCC’s games by downloading the “Pearl River CC” channel from the app store.

All football games will also be carried on WRJW 1320 AM and WRJWRadio.com.

WJDR 98.3 FM in Columbia is a new addition to the Wildcat Radio Network in 2020.