POPLARVILLE, Miss. — A year ago, Southwest seemed to have the number of Pearl River's men's soccer team. The Wildcats got a measure of redemption Tuesday, although it wasn't easy. PRCC built an early lead but had to hold on late, besting the visiting Bears 6-2 at the PRCC Sports Complex.
"We really felt we were the better team all night. We missed some opportunities but it was more of a mental lapse from us to give up the two all-world goals like we did," PRCC coach Drew Gallant said. "Their record isn't what it was last year, but they still play hard and make it a hard-fought game."
Some confusion and a heads up play led to PRCC's opening goal in the 25thminute. The referee had called offsides against the Wildcats (3-0-1 overall) deep in Southwest's end. The Bear defender played the ball back across the goal mouth, apparently catching his teammates unaware the play had restarted. Jonovan Cucurullo (Bay St. Louis; Bay) saw the pass, picked it off and nimbly placed it behind a confused keeper. After the referee conferred with his linesman, the goal stood for a 1-0 Pearl River advantage.
"That was definitely a momentum changer in the game," Gallant said.
Shandy James (Trench Town, Jamaica) and Mike Jimenez (Ocean Springs) teamed up for PRCC's second goal 10 minutes later.
Jimenez lined up for a free kick at a sharp angle just outside the box to the keeper's left. The skillful sophomore midfielder sent a hard kick in on goal and James used his entire 5-foot-9 frame to battle through the crowd and head the ball, kissing it off the back post and in.
Five minutes into the second half James tallied his second goal. Cooper Grafe (Kiln; Hancock) drove into the corner on the left side and sent a crossing pass across the yawning goal. James crashed the back door and one-timed the ball past the exposed keeper.
Less than five minutes later Cucurullo struck again. Grafe drove a free kick over a three-man wall into a crowd in front of the goal. The ball rattled around, but Cucurullo picked the ball out of the air, spun and kicked it past the keeper at point-blank range.
Southwest (0-5-1) didn't go quietly, however, netting two late goals after PRCC keeper John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) had received a yellow card for what the referee deemed was time wasting.
The Wildcats clamped down in the final seven minutes, tacking on two goals from Kealan Baggett (Ocean Springs) and Jimenez to squash any possibility of a rally.
Baggett broke round the right side of Southwest's back line in the 85thminute and blasted a low shot past the keeper. Three minutes later, Jimenez chipped the keeper for the game's final goal.
"It was really good to see Mike get on the score line," Gallant said. "Our system is starting to look better; everything is looking better."
The Wildcats return to the pitch Friday with a road match at Jones College. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on JCJC.TV.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events will be broadcast on PRCCAthletics.com and 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.