PERKINSTON — Bo Bowman's hat trick highlighted a statement win Friday night as Pearl River Community College rallied from an early one-goal deficit to defeat archrival Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 5-1.
The Bulldogs (0-3) actually scored first on a penalty kick in the 17thminute but after Matt Roberts' goal it was virtually all Wildcats (4-0) the rest of the way.
"I'm like, it's last year all over again," Gallant said of the early hole. "But, last year's team would have fallen apart and this year's team really rallied back.
"I think it comes down to our leadership."
One of the team's unquestioned leaders is Bowman (Bay St. Louis), a sophomore forward who has been active in the team's attack. That lethal touch around the goal was on display Friday as he scored the team's second hat trick of the young season.
"He looked like he was on a whole different level than everyone else on the field," Gallant said. "He played to the level he can and you saw it tonight."
Bowman netted a highlight reel goal with the Wildcats trailing 1-0 in the 22ndminute. The sophomore forward beat the keeper in a race for the ball and chipped it over the extended Bulldog before settling it just inside the touchline. While the keeper scrambled back toward his exposed goal, Bowman sent the ball into the far side of the goal from the difficult angle.
Both teams had chances early on in the second half but it was Bowman who capitalized first when he managed to guide the ball into the net through a crowd in front of the goal with 25 minutes remaining.
"I let it come through my body and just back heeled it into the back of the net," he said of his second goal, which he punctuated with a flip during the ensuing celebration.
He finished off his hat trick in the final minute of play running onto a pass down the right side from Cooper Grafe (Kiln; Hancock) and blasting it past the keeper.
"Last year we lost 4-0, so coming back this year like we did, I love it," Bowman said.
Jevaun Ennis (Maypen, Jamaica) gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead in the 28thminute when he used his speed to get around the left side of the Bulldogs' back line, broke in on goal and banked his shot in off the far post. The goal was Ennis' team-leading sixth tally; one ahead of Bowman's five.
Daminik White (Kingston, Jamaica) gave PRCC a 4-1 advantage in the 84thminute when Kealan Baggett (Ocean Springs) played a through ball down the left side. White beat the keeper in a race to the ball well above the box and slipped it into the yawning net as he slid to the wet grass.
"I thought they were the best team we've seen so far. They came out and pressed us and were very organized. We did not handle it well and looked very poor in the first half," Gallant said. "We made some changes at halftime and we looked better in the second half."
While PRCC did score five goals against its rival, goalkeeper Kobe Lie (Hattiesburg; North Forrest) also came up big. After allowing the penalty kick goal, the sophomore keeper ended up being credited with 13 saves to quell any possible Bulldog rally.
PRCC returns to the pitch Tuesday to host Southwest Mississippi Community College. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.