POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's 2-1 defeat to rival Jones College on Friday at the PRCC Sports Complex led to both good and bad news.
The bad: PRCC's men fell to JC (10-4 overall, 6-2 MACJC South) for the first time since 2016.
The good: Because of tiebreakers, Pearl River (8-2-1, 6-1) clinched its second straight MACJC South Division title and earned a first-round bye in next week's MACJC Playoffs.
"I expected us to have a higher level of intensity," Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. "From the start of the game it was nonstop mistakes at the back. I thought they did a better job of being organized and played better this time.
"Especially considering what this game meant, it was really disappointing to see the level of our boys. It just wasn't there."
The game was physical early on as both teams made runs at the opponent. JC came out as the aggressor, needing to claim a lopsided victory to knock PRCC from atop the division standings.
JC's Chris Dempsey helped set the tone for the visitors. He almost gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute as JC jumped on a giveaway but the striker pushed the ball wide to the right.
John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) made a diving save from point-blank range in the box five minutes later on Dempsey to keep the game scoreless. One minute before the end of the half, the Bobcats setup for a free kick near PRCC's goal box. Jones sent a low skipping shot through a crowd and Bowman pounced on the ball to send the two teams into the half tied 0-0.
Jones was once again the aggressor coming out of the break but it was PRCC who broke through first.
Miguel Hernandez (Gulfport) was all over a retreating Jones defender who sent a pass back to his keeper. Unable to pick the ball up, the keeper was put in a tough spot and with Hernandez charging on the ball with a yawning goal only a few feet away the keeper pulled down PRCC's freshman forward in the box.
The Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick and Ethan Hodby (Leicester City, England) calmly placed the ball in the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
Jones scored the game-tying goal in the 58th minute and then went ahead for good in the 85th minute to claim the 2-1 victory.
The defeat marked the first time since a 1-0 victory over Meridian on Aug. 30 that the Wildcats have been held to one goal in MACJC action.
Bowman was credited with seven saves in the match and allowed two goals for only the second time this season.
Although PRCC ultimately clinched the South on Friday, Gallant hopes the loss serves as a wakeup call.
"We have one game left. Everything should be 'game by game,' but I don't think we've been looking at this 'game by game,'" Gallant said. "We've been looking at the bigger picture and that will need to change."
Pearl River will conclude the 2019 regular season with a road contest at Southwest on Saturday. The rescheduled kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events are 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.