PERKINSTON, Miss. — It took all of about 30 seconds Tuesday until the first hard tackle for the newcomers in the Pearl River-Gulf Coast rivalry to understand what the competition is all about.
Aided by two first half goals, and strong team defense, the Wildcats came out victorious, winning 2-0 at Bary Thrash Field.
"The best thing ever is to go to your rival and beat them at their field. It's a great feeling. It just is," Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. "They were much better than they have been and it was obvious.
"They gave us a lot of problems in the second half."
OPENING THE SCORING
The tandem of Taja Brown (Clarendon, Jamaica) and Mike Jimenez (Ocean Springs) opened the game's scoring in the 29thminute. The Wildcats earned a free kick just outside the goal box to the right. Jimenez paced a couple strides back and set a high driven ball into the box.
Brown crashed through a crowd, getting his head on the ball and redirecting it into the net.
"We work set pieces a lot. We probably spend more time on them than anybody and it's paying off," Gallant said. "Taja, even though he's 5-foot-8 he's doing a good job of getting on the end of the ball and scoring."
Nine minutes later William Carey transfer Caleb Burke (Ocean Springs) was brought down in the box by a hard foul. Ethan Hodby (Leicester, England) placed the ensuring penalty kick into the bottom left corner for a 2-0 advantage. The strike was his first in Maroon and Gold.
"He's class on penalties. We never have to worry about him (on the spot)," Gallant said. "Caleb is such a good target up top. He's going to draw penalties because people just can't handle him and are going to foul him to deal with him."
The second half of the contest saw both teams trade chances without rippling the netting. While there were chances, both teams did a good job of recovering and transitioning, limiting opportunities to one-and-done moments.
The biggest defensive moment for PRCC (2-0-1 overall; 2-0 MACJC South) came with 9 minutes remaining when keeper John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) turned away a point-blank shot from his right.
"He was big for us," Gallant said of the freshman keeper, who turned away three shots to earn his second clean sheet of the young season.
The Wildcats don't return to the pitch until Tuesday when they host Southwest at 7 p.m.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events will be broadcast on PRCCAthletics.comand PRCCMedia.com. Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store.