No. 18 Pearl River delivers OT winner over No. 7 Jones

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Monday night’s “Cat Fight” thriller showed why you play to the final buzzer.

It took 109 minutes and 48 seconds but No. 18 Pearl River knocked off No. 7 Jones College 2-1 in double overtime to claim a sweep over the visiting Bobcats; the PRCC women defeated JC 1-0 in OT in the night’s opener at the PRCC Soccer Complex.

Like in the women’s game, it took late-game heroics for the Wildcat men to come out victorious.

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“There’s a reason they’re ranked so high. talk about a game that really could go either way,” Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said, “that was it tonight we were just on the lucky end of it. … Everything fell our way in overtime.”

The golden goal sequence was one too wild to dream up. With time rapidly running out and PRCC (4-0 overall, 1-0 MACCC South) deadlocked with Jones College (2-1, 0-1), Ryley Smith (Manchester, England; Castlebrook) set up for a corner kick, sending a hard-hit ball through the box. Retsin Kabambala (Mobile, Ala.; Murphy) got a head on it but sent it wide. Dustin Cuevas (Kiln; Hancock) sensing the urgency of the sequence had already sprinted in from 50 yards out and somehow kept the wayward header in bounds, battling with a Bobcat defender before sending the ball back out in front. Bradley Stines (Poplarville) sent a shot attempt off the post but he got a good bounce across the exposed goal mouth. That’s where Jamie Chamberlain (London, England; Dover Athletic Academy) enters the scene. The centerback picked the right moment to break free from the pack and hammered the ball into the net, spilling the Wildcats down the sideline in excitement.

“I saw it come out to me and I just hit it as hard as I could, really,” he said, freshly after sliding on his knees in celebration, fists raised to the heavens. “I just hoped it would go over and in and it did. I thought if I just hit it low and hard, off any deflection it’s still going to go in.”

Once the celebration died down, Gallant named Cuevas the man of the match.

“It goes back to our foundation as a team. We talked about this before the game. We are a family and our foundation is based on (President) Dr. Adam Breerwood’s “Pride, Respect, Class and Character.” We talk about it every day and you saw that today. You saw those four qualities come out in the team and that’s what really pushed them in overtime.”

Chamberlain echoed his coach’s sentiment. Although he’s new to the “Cat Fight” rivalry, Chamberlain won’t soon forget his first.

“It means a lot to me now, playing here. These boys are family and we showed it when we were 1-0 down. It’s a family mentality. We fight for each other,” he said. “We made a mistake, that’s one of our brothers, we have to help him out and get out of it. In the end that’s what we did, we came through and won and show what family does.”

With the exception of a rebound off of a penalty kick in the 20th minute, PRCC keeper John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) was once again exceptional. The reigning MACCC Goalkeeper of the Week turned away five of the six shots he faced to improve to 4-0 on the season.

On the lone goal, Bowman knocked down a lofted ball in the box, but lost control of it as he crashed to the ground and was forced to foul the Bobcat attacker. On the ensuing kick, Bowman guessed right, stretching to get his toe on the ball, but a crashing Bobcat hammered the ball into the open net for the night’s opening goal.

“It was good stuff again from John tonight,” Gallant said.

The Wildcats finally found an equalizer in the 63rd minute off of a Smith corner kick. JC lost the 6-foot-4 Alex Emery (Gulfport; West Harrison) at the back end of the crowd and the freshman defender got his head on the ball just enough to arc it over the Bobcat keeper and into the net. The goal marked Emery’s third in two games.

Pearl River hits the road Friday to play at Southwest for a 4 p.m. start. The Wildcats won’t return home until Tuesday when they host Meridian at PRCC Soccer Complex.