FULTON, Miss. — Terrence Humphrey (Clarksdale) clapped and out of the corner of his eye saw the Itawamba safety begin to drop toward the line. Pearl River's quarterback peeked at his receiver and the playwas on. Jaylan Wilson (Bay St. Louis; Bay) had been petitioning Coach Ted Egger the entire drive to call it and with under 30 seconds remaining and the seconds rapidly disappearing, the third-year head coach sent it in.
Humphrey caught the ball in the shotgun, waited a half second and zipped it to a wide open Wilson on the left side for the go ahead touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.
The Wildcat defense held strong in the waning seconds and PRCC clinched a 35-31 victory at Eaton Field to open the 2019 season 1-0.
"I'm proud of everybody on the football team," Egger said. "Here's what I was proud of. We had a lot of people go out with cramps and it was next man up. We didn't skip a beat. That's why it's a great team win."
The final touchdown was Humphrey's third of the game in his debut at quarterback for the Wildcats. One year after breaking his leg while playing defensive back, Humphrey completed 22 of 36 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a 1-yard score.
"That's the first game he has played. He's a freshman at quarterback so you knew there were going to be some growing pains," Egger said. "He did a great job leading this team.
"I think we have a quarterback."
Humphrey was aided by strong offensive line play, multiple receivers stepping up and several more running backs ripping off big gains.
"I want to give all the glory to God for putting me in this moment with my teammates and coaches. I've been preparing for moments like this ever since my injury last year so I thank God for making the way he made it," Humphrey said. "This win means so much to us because it's the start of the turnaround."
OPENING THE SCORING
Itawamba opened the scoring, finding the end zone on a 41-yard pass just under two minutes in. The Indians missed the extra point, to take a 6-0 lead.
PRCC responded with a lengthy 14-play, 67-yard drive that was punctuated by a 1-yard keeper from new quarterback Humphrey. The middle of the line opened and after a quick stutter step, Humphrey tumbled into the end zone with a defender. Gayden Hence (Hattiesburg) made his first of five successful extra points, giving PRCC a 7-6 advantage with 6:40 remaining in the first quarter.
ICC capitalized on a PRCC turnover, scoring on a 60-yard pick-six in the final minutes of the first half. Once again, PRCC countered with its own score.
A 26-yard connection from Humphrey to Stetson Moore (Philadelphia) down the home sideline helped set up the go-ahead score. Four plays after the lengthy pass-and-catch, PRCC faced a fourth-and-2. Instead of attempting a 47-yard field goal, the Wildcats caught ICC off guard. Humphrey faked a handoff, rolled to his left and lofted a pass 29 yards down field to former Idaho receiver Harrison Ashby (Boise, Idaho). Hence's PAT give PRCC a 14-13 advantage going into halftime.
Both teams traded possessions in the third quarter until ICC pulled ahead 21-14 on a 34-yard pass and successful two-point conversion.
The Indians tried to grab the game's momentum and catch PRCC napping by executing an onside kick. Trent Williams (Petal) held on despite getting clobbered by the Indians and one play later Humphrey connected with Latreal Jones (Taylorsville) over the middle for a 46-yard touchdown strike. The freshman receiver held on to the laser throw with a defensive back draped all over him and Hence's PAT tied the game 21-21 with 3:35 remaining in the third.
Following an ICC field goal, PRCC once again responded. This time the Wildcats drove 67 yards in 14 plays. Following back-to-back completions to Moore, including a miraculous 7-yard pass over the middle where Humphrey somehow got the pass away despite being tackled. The next play, D.D. Griffin (Richton) picked up a crucial block at the line and dragged several defenders into the end zone with him for a 10-yard score.
"He's smooth. He's one of those elusive backs," Egger said.
Hence's PAT put PRCC up 28-24 with 4:41 responding but a 27-yard pass by ICC on its next possession put the hosts ahead 31-28 with 3:26 remaining.
The score set up the thrilling finish for Wildcat fans.
"We've been working on it in practice but we kept messing up," Humphrey said of the go-ahead TD on the slant route. "In big moments like this I told him we're not going to mess up and he believed in me and made the big play."
Wilson led all receivers, making seven grabs for 74 yards and a touchdown. Jones caught five passes for 71 yards and a score. Ashby and Moore each caught four passes for 42 and 61 yards respectively.
Lance Stewart (Oxford; Lafayette County) led PRCC's running backs with 89 yards on 13 carries. Griffin was second with 47 yards on 11 carries.
"That's everything we've seen in practice. We have four kids who are good running backs," Egger said, including T.J. Wash (Forest; Scott Central) and Tionne Frost (Gulfport). "They're going to give people problems."
PRCC returns to the gridiron next Thursday with a road tilt at East Mississippi. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Wildcats will return home Sept. 12 to face Copiah-Lincoln at 6 p.m.
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.