POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Coach Seth Smith's debut got off to a strong start Thursday against Gulf Coast as the Wildcats opened the scoring and forced three first-half turnovers. The Bulldogs ultimately pulled away in the second half, earning a 42-25 victory at PRCC's Dobie Holden Stadium.
"They fought hard and I'm proud of them but obviously there are no moral victories. We didn't want to come out here and get beat 42-25, but there were a lot of positives," Smith said following his debut. "Like I told (the players), as long as we come back and we get better, that's what matters.
"If that team is the standard, we're two scores away so it's important for us to get better and make sure we compete our tails off next week."
Pearl River came out of the gate firing, scoring on the first play from scrimmage. Sophomore quarterback Jakob Greer (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus) motioned running back Chris Holifield Jr. (Mobile, Ala.; Leflore) into the slot and then hit behind the Bulldog secondary.
Holifield flashed his speed, out-running the defense for a 68-yard strike.
"That was a great pitch and catch," PRCC offensive coordinator David Chatham said. "Our running back had a good matchup on their linebacker and he was able to run past him and score. That was big. I wish we could have built off that momentum a little more, but we'll get better."
The Wildcats kept the momentum on MGCCC's next possession. Feeling pressure from the pass rush, the Bulldogs' quarterback heaved a ball down the PRCC sideline that Ricco Moore (Moss Point; St. Martin) plucked out of the air.
PRCC (0-1) was unable to capitalize, however, and the Bulldogs scored 21 unanswered to close out the first quarter.
The Wildcats didn't go away, however. On MGCCC's first possession of the second quarter, defensive end Gage Glover (Brooklyn; Forrest County AHS) pounced on a loose ball.
Jaylen Glaude (Ocean Springs) stalked the Bulldog backfield on their next possession, racking up two tackles-for-loss and forcing a punt.
PRCC capitalized on its next possession. Following a 32-yard pass-and-catch from Austin Davidson (Meridian; West Lauderdale) to Stetson Moore (Philadelphia), Will Young (Hurley; East Central) put his head down and burrowed through the defense for a 6-yard score to pull PRCC within 8, 21-13.
"He's a hard, hard, hard runner," Chatham said of Young. "That's what we're looking for — downhill running. We have to establish that early."
Jairus McFarland (Hattiesburg) pulled in another interception on a deep pass down the sideline to help close out the first half.
Gulf Coast (1-0) extended its lead to 35-13 midway through the third quarter, but PRCC found pay dirt once more on a 10-yard keeper by Davidson. A second missed extra point brought the score to 35-19.
Davidson capped the night's scoring with three minutes remaining when he spun off a defender and rolled around the right side of the line for a 3-yard score to make it 42-25.
Greer and Davidson split time at quarterback. Davidson, a transfer from Arkansas-Monticello, completed 13 of 25 passes for 150 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 24 yards with two TDs. Greer completed 16 of 26 passes for 132.
Young led the running backs with 22 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
Eleven different receivers caught passes Thursday.
"We feel like our receivers are the best group on our offense. They were going to challenge us and play man, so we tried to take advantage of that," Smith said. "We have to do a better job next week of winning the one-on-ones."
Latreal Jones (Taylorsville) pulled in six receptions for 68 yards. Moore added six catches for 71 yards. Holifield finished the game with six catches for 80 yards.
Noah Mitchell (Leakesville; Greene County) led PRCC with seven solo tackles and three assists. Glaude recorded one sack and three tackles-for-loss.
Pearl River will return to action next Thursday with a trip to Wesson to face Copiah-Lincoln. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
The Wildcats return to Dobie Holden Stadium on Oct. 15 to face East Central for a 7 p.m. start.
STREAMING + RADIO
PRCCMedia.com will once again be the digital home for Pearl River Wildcat Athletics in 2020-21. All football games will be livestreamed in addition to being carried on WRJW 1320 AM and WRJWRadio.com.
New to the Wildcat Radio Network in 2020 is WJDR 98.3 FM in Columbia.
Carey Meitzler will return as the play-by-play voice of the Wildcats for both the stream and radio. He'll be joined once again by Barry Harper as the color analyst. Jacob Hickman will provide insight from the sidelines.