POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Five of the best to ever represent the Maroon and Gold will be immortalized Oct. 12 when Pearl River honors its Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
The five newest Wildcats of the Hall are Michael Allizzo (men's soccer; 2012-13), Datishella "Punkin" Byrd (women's basketball; 1996-98), Matt Lott (football; 2003-04), Richard Morgan (football; 1950-51) and Charlie Reeve (football; 2001).
"Once again, we have an outstanding group of inductees into to our prestigious Hall of Fame," Pearl River Athletics Director Jeff Long said. "We are honored to induct these five outstanding former student athletes and to cement their legacy at Pearl River Community College."
The ceremony will be part of Pearl River's annual Homecoming festivities built around the 2 p.m kickoff against Southwest.
Allizzo had a prolific two-year career in Poplarville, netting 42 goals that are still the high-water mark for the program.
"I made a lot of good, long-lasting friends," said Allizzo, who also kicked for the football team. "It was probably the best time I had in college because we were always together and our team was all friends.
"You don't always get that."
Allizzo was a fixture for Coach Paul Martin early on as a freshman. The highlight of his season came in the Region XXIII Title Game, when the Ocean Springs native scored with 3:24 remaining to knock off Meridian 2-1.
By the time Allizzo left Poplarville for William Carey he had collected two All-Region XXIII selections, was a 2013 NJCAA All-America Second Team selection and had won two MACJC titles in addition to the '12 Region XXIII hardware.
Allizzo went on to earn SSAC Scholar Athlete honors both years he suited up for the Crusaders.
Allizzo currently works in sales in Hattiesburg.
Byrd was one of the best basketball players to ever come through Pearl River. A Hickory, North Carolina, native, Byrd had plenty of interest out of high school before ultimately landing in Poplarville with Coach Polly Kirkland.
The 5-foot-11 forward was nearly unstoppable for the Wildcats. As a freshman in 1996-97, Byrd averaged 20 points with 8.6 rebounds. Her honors included being named All-MACJC, All-Region XXIII, All-Region XXIII Tournament and Elite All-District Kodak. Byrd was also an honorable mention on the NJCAA All-America squad.
She followed up her collegiate debut with a nearly identical campaign in 1997-98 by averaging 22 points and 8.6 rebounds while converting 50.2 percent of her shots from the floor. For her performance, Byrd was once again named All-MACJC, All-Region XXIII and All-Region XXIII Tournament. She was also a Second Team NJCAA All-America selection.
Asked to reflect on her accomplishments, Byrd modestly downplayed her individual ability.
"I was an athlete who never wanted the spotlight. It was all about my team," Byrd said. "It's an honor (to be inducted) and shocking to get a call from Pearl River. I just hope when I'm there I can uplift somebody else so they chase their dreams and never give up.
"It was about my teammates, Coach Kirkland and who she was. They made it really easy to succeed."
Byrd went on to Clemson, where she was an important member of the two NCAA Tournament teams, playing in the Sweet 16 and winning the ACC Championship.
Today, Byrd works as an auto finance supervisor in Orlando, Florida. Most importantly, Byrd is a proud mother of 13-year-old Omaria Gordon, who appears to have gotten her mother's athletic ability.
Offensive linemen do the dirty work in the trenches, but despite their vital role on any successful football team they often go unnoticed when it comes to awards and honors.
Looking back, it was hard to overlook the impact lineman Matt Lott made on Pearl River's football program in 2003-04. Under Coach Tim Hatten's guidance, the Wildcats won two MACJC Championships and the 2004 NJCAA Title.
A two-year starter from Stone High, Lott was originally passed over by other schools before PRCC swooped in to land the talented lineman's signature.
Lott rewarded Hatten's faith, helping PRCC build a 22-1 record in his two seasons in Poplarville before signing with Baylor.
Lott was a two-year starter who allowed just one sack as a sophomore. With Lott blocking up front during the national title campaign, PRCC led the nation in passing (301.4 yards per game) and ranked sixth in total offense (439.0 ypg).
As a sophomore, Lott was named All-MACJC and NJCAA All-America plus earned Academic All-America honors.
Following a standout playing career, Lott got back into football as a college coach. He spent seven years at Independence, Kansas and is in his fourth season at Coahoma. He coached the offensive line for his first three years at CCC and is now the offensive coordinator.
"Pearl River is always going to be special to me because it helped set the course of my life," Lott said. "I never would have gone to Baylor without the athletic scholarship, I met my wife at Baylor. … You wonder what would have happened had I not gone to Pearl River."
The ties to legendary coach Dobie Holden run deep when it comes to the Sports Hall of Fame, with Morgan the latest connection to deserve enshrinement.
A Franklinton, Louisiana, native, Morgan played on both sides of the ball for Holden in 1950-51.
Morgan began his PRCC career at running back in 1950, helping the Wildcats build a 6-3-1 record. During the campaign, PRCC's offense eclipsed 27 points five times and shellacked rivals Gulf Coast (then Perkinston) 33-0 and Jones College (then Jones County) 34-13 in the season finale.
The following season Morgan moved to the defensive side of the ball. Despite only being 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, Morgan starred as a shutdown defensive back in Holden's scheme. With Morgan roaming the secondary, the Wildcats went 9-2 with a Memorial Bowl berth. Six times in '51 the Wildcats blanked opponents. It was arguably the stingiest defense in the league that season.
"I remember Coach Holden called me over and said I'm going to make a defensive back out of you," Morgan recalled recently. "I just loved it."
Morgan said he actually caught Holden's attention as a prep standout thanks to a teammate. Three or four teammates went to work out at Southern Miss during the spring.
"We came on back and that summer Coach Holden came and talked to my high school coach and said I could come play ball on a scholarship," Morgan said. "Well that was right up my alley."
Morgan currently lives in his hometown and still manages his business.
Reeve owns one of the more impressive stat lines in Pearl River history and owns the title of NJCAA Passing Champion after throwing for 2,553 yards and 25 touchdowns for Coach Scott Maxfield in 2001. During that All-American campaign, Reeve completed 61 percent of his passes, only threw seven interceptions and led the MACJC with a 141 passer efficiency rating.
Pearl River had won five games just once in the five seasons prior to 2001 and were fresh off of a 4-6 campaign. The 7-2 mark in '01 was a sign of big things to come for the program.
"I think the thing that stands out the most is beginning to turn the program around. They had been down for a while and that's when coach Maxwell came in," Reeve said. "This is right when the whole 'air raid' offense came in and we were throwing it around 30-40 times a game, which was unheard of at the time.
"Just to be a part of the turnaround and put the program back on the map was fun. That year brought some excitement back to the program.
"It was a great experience for me and made some great life memories and friends."
Reeve, who had transferred from Abilene Christian, signed with Texas State following the season. He's currently a coordinator at Seven Lakes High in Katy, Texas.
MORE ON THE HALL OF FAMERS
Individual profiles on each of this year's inductees will be released close to the ceremony.
PRCC FOOTBALL BROADCASTS
All Pearl River football games will once again be livestreamed at PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Games will also be broadcast on WRJW 1320 AM, WCJU 1450 AM in Columbia, WCJU 104.9 FM in Prentiss, and both WHSY 950 AM and WHSY 105.9 FM in Hattiesburg.
Individuals who have an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku device can also stream PRCC broadcast by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from the app store.