Pearl River shows fight in finale

Published 3:42 pm Sunday, October 31, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River football Wildcats battled with one of the nation’s top teams Thursday night but came up just short. Tripped up by two quick touchdowns in the third quarter, PRCC fell to No. 11 Hinds 21-10 on Sophomore Night inside Dobie Holden Stadium. The result concluded PRCC’s 2021 season and secured Hinds’ share in the MACCC South Division Championship.

“I hate it for these kids but what I hope they understand is this is how life works sometimes,” Pearl River coach Seth Smith said. “It’s not easy, but I hope they understand where there’s adversity there’s growth and where there’s growth there’s joy.

“This game was indicative of the entire year, where the offense does good and the defense does bad and then the offense does bad and the defense does good.” 

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Pearl River (2-7 overall; 0-6 MACCC South) started the game with the ball and did a good job of chewing up the clock. The first drive spanned nearly 7 minutes thanks to a ground-heavy attack. After a Hinds touchdown gave the Eagles (7-2; 5-1) an early 7-0 lead, the Wildcat rushing attack went back to work. 

Tony Brown (Hurley; East Central) highlighted another lengthy possession with a 30-yard run. The running back found a seam on the left side and hit the sideline before getting caught well into HCC territory. Although the possession ended in a punt, it was clear the Wildcats had found a potentially successful recipe.

After the Eagles’ offense sputtered to open the second quarter, the Wildcats went back to work. Starting at their own 16 yard line, the Wildcats marched all the way down to the other end of the field while draining 10 minutes, 28 seconds off the clock. Using a steady diet of Brown, Nick Milsap (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) and Will Young (Hurley; East Central), the Wildcats pieced together a 16-play drive that was capped by a 35-yard field goal from Michael Owens (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove). 

Luther Woullard II (Petal) picked off a tipped pass on Hinds’ next possession and PRCC looked to take momentum into the midway point. 

Hinds sandwiched two touchdowns around a PRCC interception, however, to open the second half with a 21-3 lead.

The Wildcat defense gave PRCC life once again on Hinds next possession. Lineman Chancellor Handy (Mobile, Ala.; Saraland) leapt to swat a pass and Justin Jefferson (Memphis, Tenn.; Bartlett) swooped in to snatch the wounded pass out of the air. 

Pearl River made the most of its opportunity, scoring on a 4-yard run by Brown. 

Interior lineman Tomacio Robinson (Hattiesburg) forced PRCC’s third turnover on Hinds’ next possession. Hinds attempted to run to the left. Jaylen Glaude (Moss Point; Ocean Springs) did a good job of holding up the runner, allowing Robinson to punch the ball loose and jump on it.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they were unable to pull within striking distance the rest of the competition.

Following the game, Smith discussed his hopes for the departing sophomore class and his appreciation for their dedication to the program.

“I just hope they know I love them and truly appreciate them,” he said. “At no point this year has there been a woe-is-me mentality. That’s a tribute to them. I hope they will take some lessons we’ve learned and be able to use them the rest of their lives.”

Brown turned in his second-best performance of the season, rushing for 175 yards on a season-high 33 carries. Brown’s 791 yards on the year marks PRCC’s best rushing campaign since Ron Thompson ran for 913 yards in 2018.

Milsap and Young rounded out PRCC’s rushing leaders with 38 and 37 yards respectively.

Zach Jones (Hurley; East Central) had one of his best performances of the year, registering eight tackles with one tackle-for-loss. Woullard II finished with seven tackles and an interception. Jefferson rounded out PRCC’s defensive leaders with six tackles and an interception.