Pearl River set to honor 60th anniversary of ’61 National Champs

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, October 27, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Sixty years after the Dobie Holden’s Pearl River Wildcats claimed the first national championship in program history, the 1961 ‘Cats will be back in Poplarville to celebrate their accomplishments. PRCC’s Alumni Foundation is welcoming back one of the most dominant JUCO football teams to ever grace the gridiron as part of the Class of 1961 reunion at the Oct. 28 football game against Hinds.

The Foundation is also hosting a Lineman Program appreciation, presented by Coast Electric. Both groups are welcome to the pre-game tailgate, which is located next to the stadium closest to the new dorms.

Kickoff for the regular season finale at Dobie Holden Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

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Holden spent 18 legendary seasons at Pearl River, helping to lead PRCC to seven of the program’s record 19 state championships. Many have said his ’61 State and National Championship squad was his best.

To say the Wildcats were the runaway favorites in 1961 would be a massive understatement. While piecing together a perfect 10-0 record, the Wildcats outscored foes 446-47.

PRCC opened the season defeating East Mississippi 42-3. After beating Jones 42-0, the Wildcats picked up their most lopsided victory of the season in Week 3 in the form of a 70-0 win over Northwest.

Pearl River toppled Southwest and Holmes in consecutive weeks 32-6 and 20-14, respectively.

Holden’s team then thumped Copiah-Lincoln and Mississippi Delta in consecutive weeks 52-6 and 42-6. The Wildcats closed out the year the way they started it, with three more convincing victories. PRCC topped Itawamba 42-0, Gulf Coast 60-6 and Hinds 44-6.

Eight members of the 1961 team are currently enshrined in the Pearl River Community College Athletics Hall of Fame. Those Hall of Famers include student athletes Alvin Doyle, Robert Young, Tommy Walters, J.E. Loiacano, Fred Runte, Mack Cochran, and coaches Holden and John Russell.

Other members of the team included: Coaches Jack Gallagher and Bob Clark, managers Ike Burks and Jim Blakeney, and student athletes Bobby Cochran, Eldon Orgeron, James Pigott, Earl Whitfield, Louie Stines, Larry Hunt, Larry Magee, Terry Joe Byrd, Robert Roper, Freddie Delaney, Warren Armes, Paul Farr, James Owen, Ronnie Artigues, Bill Watts, Jim Karg, Terry Fernandez, Joe Bufkin, Henry Taylor, Woody Alliston, Michael Craft, Malcolm Courtney, Johnny Adams, Bobby Drake and Ed Davis.

Mack Cochran was an All-America and All-State selection on that team. Doyle, Loiacano, Runte and Walters were also selected for the All-State squad. Additionally, the Wildcats had 10 honorable mentions: Brett, Hunt, Bobby Cochran, Orgeron, Pigott, Whitfield, Stines, Magee, Byrd and Regan.

During Holden’s tenure at PRCC, the Wildcats boasted a 140-43-7 record and perennially ranked among the nation’s best. In addition to 140 wins, Holden ripped off 17 straight over rival Gulf Coast and by the time he left PRCC after 1966 he had amassed four bowl championships. The Wildcats’ home field, Dobie Holden Stadium, was dedicated in his honor in 1966.

Prior to coaching at The River, Holden was a standout at Picayune and later LSU.

Once he got his prep coaching start at Picayune, Holden ran with it. He was 72-19-7 during his decade leading the Maroon Tide — including a 37-game winning streak. After a year working in Louisiana at a shipbuilding firm, Holden picked back up at Pascagoula High. The break away from coaching didn’t hurt Holden on the field. In fact, his first Pascagoula squad was picked to finish last in the 19-team Big Eight but instead won the title.

Holden died in 1986 with a career record across all levels of 240-74-15. In addition to being enshrined in Pearl River’s Athletics Hall of Fame, Holden is honored in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Community College Hall of Fame.

The Pearl River Athletics Hall of Fame currently houses 134 of the greatest student athletes and coaches to represent The River. The Hall of Fame was established in 1988 with an eight-person class and has been an annual staple at PRCC with the exception of 2020; the ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a full list of PRCC Hall of Famers, visit

Know someone who’s deserving of being enshrined? You can visit to fill out the nomination form.