POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River had plenty of reasons to celebrate Thursday night at Dobie Holden Stadium. As if Homecoming and Sophomore Night weren't enough, the Wildcats really flexed their muscles in the second half to earn a 37-26 victory.
"Once our defense got settled in it helped us," PRCC coach Seth Smith said. "I'm so proud of Jake Greer and the offensive line. All of them. We knew this would be a process here but hopefully this was another step in the right direction."
Redshirt-sophomore Jakob Greer (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus) led the charge with a career day. The quarterback accounted for three touchdowns and 380 yards of offense.
"What a testament of perseverance," Smith said. "That's a kid who's been here for three years as a redshirt. He finally gets a chance to start (this season) and has done a great job."
Pearl River opened the scoring in the first quarter, piecing together a run-heavy 15-play, 75-yard drive. The Wildcats found pay dirt on a 10-yard pass-and-catch from Greer to Stetson Moore (Philadelphia). Greer found Moore, a Liberty verbal commit, in solo coverage on the right side and arched a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Moore leapt over the defensive back and pulled in the pass for a 6-0 lead.
Southwest responded with two scores to go ahead 14-6. A couple of big defensive plays, however bookended a strong finish to the first half by the Wildcats.
With Southwest pinned deep in its own territory, Jaylen Glaude (Ocean Springs) zipped around the right side of the line and surprised the Bear quarterback from behind to force a fumble.
With players diving all over to scoop up the slippery ball, Antonio Barnes (Poplarville) came away from the pile holding the pigskin.
PRCC cashed in thanks to a 27-yard field goal from Branson Davis (Hurley; East Central). Just before the end of the frame Barnes came up big again, plucking a pass out of the air in PRCC's red zone to keep the Bears off the board.
SCORING IN BUNCHES
The Wildcat defense continued its strong play in the third, blanking SMCC to allow PRCC to retake the lead.
After forcing a punt late in the third, PRCC wasted no time retaking the lead, 15-14. On the first play from scrimmage Greer hit Jones on a screen to the left side. Jones raced back against the grain of the field and found his way into the end zone untouched for a 46-yard score.
"That's a special guy," Greer said of Jones. "If you can just get the ball in his hands he can take it to the house."
After the Bears retook the lead, 20-15, to open the fourth quarter the Wildcats on their next possession. Set up by a 39-yard pass to Jones and a 30-yard keeper from Greer, Nick Milsap (Raleigh; Oak Grove) scored on a 4-yard run up the middle. A successful quarterback keeper on the 2-point conversion pushed PRCC back ahead 23-20.
Two possessions later Southwest jumped ahead 26-23, but PRCC immediately hit back. Greer opened the six-play scoring drive with a 32-yard run and then capped it by calling his own number and dashing across the field for a 15-yard touchdown. Following a successful PAT, PRCC held a 30-26 advantage with 6:50 remaining.
The defense forced another punt and the Wildcats milked the clock with another lengthy scoring drive. With Will Young (Hurley; East Central) in as a wildcat QB, PRCC drove 78 yards and scored on a 13-yard dash down the visiting sideline from the freshman.
Sophomore Ben Johnson (Hattiesburg) helped put the game on ice with an interception.
LEADING THE WAY
PRCC racked up nearly 500 yards of total offense on the day. Leading the way, Greer completed 17 of 24 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns and then rushed for 166 and another score.
"Credit to the offensive linemen and the running backs setting the blocks and giving me the lanes to run through," Greer said. "They stuck to it and never let up the whole night. All of the credit goes to them. I'm just back there running the ball.
"That is their hard work out there."
Jones led PRCC receivers with 11 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. Young and Chris Holifield Jr. (Mobile, Ala.; Leflore) rounded out PRCC's rushing leaders with 65 and 50 yards respectively.
Collectively, the defense forced three turnovers and five punts to turn the tide in the Wildcats' favor.
REASON TO CELEBRATE
Prior to kickoff, Pearl River recognized its 23 sophomores: Jones, Javo Thurman (Magee), Damien Lynch (Pearl), Trent Williams (Petal), Luther Woullard II (Petal), Greer, Noah Mitchell (Leakesville; Greene County), Johnson, Jairus McFarland (Hattiesburg), Antonio Barnes Stetson Moore, Ricco Moore (Moss Point; St. Martin), Dymarcus Griffin (Richton), Nijewel Coleman (Sumrall), Glaude Branson Davis (Hurley; East Central), Ra'Sheim Jordan (Hattiesburg), Mario Barnes (Poplarville), Gayden Hence (Hattiesburg), Jarid Johnson (Pascagoula), Desmond Harris (Moss Point), JuVonta Raymond (Picayune), Hayden West (Leakesville; Greene County) and Kyle Stockstill (Picayune).
PRCC also recognized its Alumnus of the Year — Tony and Tracy Waits — and its homecoming court, which consists of queen Kaylee Clavo and maids Maesyn Alexis Cuevas, Lauren Brown, Kaylee Nicole Fortenberry, Gracie Elisabeth Jones, Laura Mae Jackson, Madison Danielle Nielson, Sarah Williams and Riley Cleveland.
During halftime, PRCC's undefeated 2019-20 Men's Basketball team was also recognized for its unprecedented 28-0 year and No. 1 seed in the NJCAA Tournament. Coach Chris Oney was presented his NJCAA Coach of the Year award by President Dr. Adam Breerwood and Athletics Director Scotty Fletcher.
Following the game, Pearl River held a special fireworks display to honor the military ahead of Veterans Day.
Pearl River will conclude its 2020 season next Thursday, Nov. 15, at Hinds. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
STREAMING + RADIO
PRCCMedia.com is the digital home for Pearl River Wildcat Athletics in 2020-21. In addition to PRCCMedia.com, fans with a Roku or Amazon Fire device can also stream PRCC's games by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from the app store.
All football games will also be carried on WRJW 1320 AM and WRJWRadio.com.
WJDR 98.3 FM in Columbia is a new addition to the Wildcat Radio Network in 2020.