''Cat Fight hits gridiron for 81st time Thursday

POPLARVILLE One of the most storied rivalries in all of community college football hits the gridiron for the 81st time Thursday when Pearl River hosts Jones County in a playing for pride MACJC South Division battle. The host Wildcats, 5-4 overall, 3-2 in division play, were eliminated from post-season playoff contention last Saturday via a 59-32 beatdown at Hinds, which saw the host Eagles clinch at least the South No. 2 seed with the lopsided victory. JCJC (5-3 and 2-3), on the other hand, have been out of the playoff hunt since dropping its first three division games. For tenth-year PRCC head coach Tim Hatten, a winning season is on the line. In all my years of coaching, Ive never went through a losing year and dont plan to this time around, he said. But if we dont regroup and put out the effort in practice and in our last game, that (losing season), sadly to say, could be the case. Hatten boasts a 77-23 overall record since arriving in Poplarville in the summer of 2002 and has guided the Wildcats to four straight MACJC state championships (2003 through 2006), including an NJCAA national title in 2004. Going in (the 2011 season), I never wouldve dreamed we wouldve been in this shape heading into our last game, he explained. Weve led the state and nation in passing offense practically every week of the season, but on the defensive side, our secondary has been a big problem. Hinds beat us by 27 points and that was after we outgained them on the offensive side 629 (yards) to 557. But they bombed us with five touchdown passes, ran in two more, and also had a pick six, Hatten added. Weve got to redeem ourselves. If we dont, well go out with a loss and, sadly, wind up with a losing record. The visiting Bobcats opened their season with back-to-back non-division splatterings at home of Mississippi Delta and Coahoma 33-0 and 46-20, respectively, before ninth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast took a 17-10 win in Perkinston to open both teams South Division schedules. Copiah-Lincoln was a 14-7 division winner the following week in Ellisville, but JCJC rebounded with a 38-20 non-division win over Holmes in Goodman. Now-playoff-bound Hinds smacked the Bobcats 34-7 in a division bout in week six in Raymond before Jones bounced back with a 28-7 division win over East Central at home. Last week, JCJC picked up its second South Division win with a 42-35 decision over Southwest Mississippi in Ellisville. They (Jones) have turned it around pretty good in the last few weeks, Hatten said, and they would like nothing better than to come down here and knock off the Wildcats. And theyre very capable of doing that. Our job is to get our guys ready and keep that from happening. Pearl River entered the season ranked No. 8 in the NJCAA preseason poll, but fell 56-55 in overtime to then-ninth-ranked Northwest Mississippi in Senatobia before rebounding with a convincing 34-8 victory over Itawamba in Fulton. The Wildcats then reeled off two straight South Division victories with a hard-fought 27-20 decision over Southwest in Poplarville and a 31-13 win over East Central in Decatur before Gulf Coast took a 17-10 in week five in Perkinston. Division rival Co-Lin was PRCC next victim with a 26-5 victory in Poplarville, then third-ranked non-division foe East Mississippi spoiled the Wildcats Homecoming with a 41-17 win.The Cat Fight Rivalry… Pearl River leads its series with JCJC with 41 wins versus 37 losses (two ties) heading into this year match up. Last year, the Wildcats took a 24-21 double-overtime victory in Ellisville, while in 2009 PRCC won the statistical battle in lopsided fashion 320 total offensive yards to the Bobcats 205 but JCJC prevailed in lieu of a whopping five PRCC turnovers. The River had two interceptions inside Jones 10 and another pick and a lost fumble around the opponent 20. In 2008, the then-10th-ranked Wildcats seemed destined for defeat when Emil Jones muffed a shotgun snap and Bobcat linebacker Demorio Leverette picked up the miscue and sped untouched to the end zone for a go-ahead score with 2:37 remaining in the game. JCJC quarterback Early James then passed to Anthony Jackson for the two-point conversion to give the then-third-ranked Bobcats a 22-19 edge. But The River answered with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive for the win, capped by a four-yard shovel pass from Jones to now-Delta State Statesman Ray Chisholm with 1:02 left to give Jones its first loss of the year. In 2007, the then-fifth-ranked Bobcats put together a fourth-quarter rally to spoil the Wildcats Homecoming with a 33-28 setback, while in 2006, PRCC trailed the home-standing Bobcats 24-13 with under five minutes left, but rallied back with 15 unanswered points to hand their previously-undefeated hosts a heartbreaking 28-24 defeat. Wide receiver Demetrius Byrd snagged a 21-yard touchdown pass from Carlton Hill with 56 seconds left to ice the hard-fought victory. Hill entered the game under center to kick off the second half after playing wide receiver in PRCC previous six-and-a-half outings. Hill put on a stunning fourth-quarter show that wowed the capacity crowd witnessing the slugfest played on Sim Cooley Field. The Bobcats seemingly never recovered from the shocking defeat as they managed to score a meager six points in their last two games and closed out the remainder of their season with back-to-back losses to Mississippi Gulf Coast (24-3) and Copiah-Lincoln (16-3). In 2005, the Wildcats took a hard-fought 28-18 victory in Ellisville a year after their lopsided 52-10 Homecoming romp in Poplarville in PRCC state and national championship season. PRCC won 35-21 in 2003. The rivalry cranked up back in 1934 with Jones winning the inaugural meeting 33-0 and from 1937 until 1944, Jones won six straight, including a unique 3-2 victory in 1938. Legendary PRCC coach Dobie Holden compiled a 13-7-1 record against Jones in his 21 years at the Wildcat helm, including a 12-12 deadlock in 1946 in his first game at The River. Holden successor, John Russell, was 5-2 against the Bobcats in seven years, while his successor, J.C. Arban, was 3-7-1. Mike Nelson followed Arban and was 2-2 in the late 1980s, while Willie Coats was 3-2 and Keith Daniels 2-4 in the 1990s. Hatten boasts a 6-1 record against the Bobcats. In 2000, the Bobcats were 37-21 victors in Daniels last game as Wildcat coach. Daniels died the following day of a brain hemorrhage. The preceding season, Daniels led Pearl River to one of the most stunning upsets in history when the Wildcats trimmed then-defending state and national champion Jones 20-15 in Ellisville. Scott Maxfield, Daniels successor who left after the 2001 season to take the head job at Blinn College in Brenham, Tex., lost 24-14 in his only game against the Bobcats. Hatten, Maxfield successor, has yet to lose to Dykes, winning 44-17 in 2002, 35-21 in 2003, and last year blowout. There have been two ties in the history of the rivalry. Pearl River has won an unprecedented 19 state championships, including state and national titles in 1961 and 2004. Jones has won 12 state titles..Other Action In The MACJC Last Week In North Division action last week, third-ranked and undefeated East Mississippi (8-0, 5-0) crushed winless Mississippi Delta (0-8, 0-5) 54-0 in its Homecoming game in Scooba to clinch the division crown, Northwest Mississippi (5-3, 3-2) downed Holmes (2-5, 2-3) in its Homecoming contest in Senatobia, and Itawamba (4-4, 4-1) upset 16th-ranked Northeast Mississippi (6-2, 4-2) 28-18 in Booneville. In the South, Copiah-Lincoln (4-4, 2-4) nipped East Central (1-7, 0-5) 7-6 in Decatur and Jones County (5-3, 2-3) downed Southwest Mississippi (3-5, 1-4) 42-35 in Summit. Ninth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast (7-1, 6-0) demolished winless Coahoma (0-8, 0-6) 34-0 in its Homecoming game in Perkinston in the only intra-divisional match up of the week.Other Regular-Season Finales This Week This week wraps the 2011 regular season with six Thursday games and one Saturday match up. In the North Division on Thursday, Mississippi Delta hosts Coahoma in a battle of the winless in Moorhead, Holmes hosts East Mississippi in Goodman, and Itawamba hosts Northwest in Fulton; while in the South, Southwest hosts East Central in Summit. Co-Lin hosts Northeast in Wesson Thursday in the only intra-divisional game of the week. The South Division championship will be decided Saturday when Gulf Coast hosts Hinds in Perkinston.Wildcats Over The Airwaves All Pearl River games are broadcast live on WFMM-FM (97.3) in Hattiesburg, WFFF-FM (96.7) in Columbia, and WRJW-AM (1320) in Picayune. Long-time play-by-play announcer Jason Baker, color commentator Clay Sweet, and sideline reporter Jeff Lossett will handle the broadcast. Airtime for Thursday Cat Fight broadcast is 6 p.m. You may also listen to the Wildcats over the internet by logging on to

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