Submitted by braswell on October 11, 2011 – 4:00pm
POPLARVILLE The top two passing offenses in the state and nation will do battle Saturday when Pearl River tackles third-ranked and undefeated East Mississippi for its 2011 Homecoming game here in Dobie Holden Stadium at 3 p.m.. Not only is it Homecoming day for the host Wildcats, but it also a homecoming, of sorts, for Lion head coach Buddy Stephens and associate head coach-defensive coordinator William Jones. The duo spent seven successful seasons as offensive and defensive coaches, respectively, with the River program before departing for Scooba in 2008. East Miss, 6-0 overall, enters the game off a 63-35 blowout victory over previously-12th-ranked Northeast Mississippi in a North Division contest that saw the Lions amass a staggering 697 yards of total offense (573 pass, 124 rush); while Pearl River, 3-2, dropped South rival Copiah-Lincoln 26-5 to improve to 2-1 in the division. It going to be fun, 10th-year PRCC head coach Tim Hatten said of Saturday game. Youre matching up the top two passing teams with the top two passing quarterbacks in the entire nation. There going to be lots of offensive numbers with lots of scoring. It going to be an exciting game to watch and coach. A year ago, the Lions handed The River a pivotal 42-36 road loss in Scooba that kept the Wildcats out of the post-season playoffs via a tie-breaker scenario. We finished the regular season in a three-way tie at 5-1 for first place in the (South) division with Gulf Coast and Co-Lin, but were left out of the mix because of our 6-3 overall record, Hatten explained. That (East Miss) loss was our third and it did us in. In last year contest, the Wildcats amassed 583 yards of total offense with All-American quarterback Melvin German out of Dunbar High in Fort Myers, Fla., throwing for 503 second best, at the time, in PRCC history. Pearl River offensive total was 134 yards more than East Miss 439 (277 pass, 162 rush). German surpassed that individual mark in this year season-opening 533-yard throwing effort in the Wildcats 56-55 overtime loss to Northwest Mississippi. This season, Stephens has guided the Lions to their first 6-0 start since 1964 when legendary coach Bull Sullivan headed the Scooba program. All told, Stephens is 30-8 overall and 20-2 in the North Division since arriving on the Scooba campus in 2008. The Lions entered the 2011 season ranked 16th in the NJCAA preseason balloting, but quickly moved up to ninth after their season-opening 34-30 home victory over then-second-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast. EMCC 20-17 road win over now-No. 7 Hinds produced a No. 8 ranking before back-to-back division road wins over then-fourth-ranked Northwest Mississippi (45-42) and Coahoma (56-6) pushed Scooba to fourth in the balloting for two straight weeks. After then-No. 1 Navarro (Tex.) suffered a 31-26 setback to then-No. 2 Blinn (Tex.), that game winner moved into the poll top spot, then-No. 3 Arizona Western to second, and East Miss to third. Sure, they (EMCC) are deserving of their ranking, said Hatten. To get in the poll and stay there, all youve got to do is win and theyve done that for six straight weeks. Pearl River was ranked eighth in the preseason poll, but after a 56-55 overtime loss on the road to Northwest, the Wildcats dropped to 14th, then fell to 15th for two consecutive weeks despite back-to-back victories over Itawamba (34-8 on road) and Southwest Mississippi (27-20) in their home and South Division opener. After canning division foe East Central 31-13 in Decatur, PRCC moved up two spots to 13th; but its 17-10 road setback to division rival Gulf Coast saw the Wildcats drop out of the balloting. The Wildcats have, however, received votes in the last two top 20 votes. This is our opportunity to get back into the national spotlight, Hatten said. East Mississippi is the highest-ranked team to come in here since we beat Gulf Coast when they were ranked No. 1 last year. It definitely a challenge for our guys, but I fell were up to the task. Saturday contest marks the third time Hatten has matched up against Stephens, a former Wildcat teammate of Hatten, who spent six of his seven seasons at Pearl River under Hatten. He was offensive line coach and assistant offensive coordinator when the Wildcats won four straight MACJC championships (2003 through 2006) and an NJCAA national title in 2004. Stephens has guided EMCC into the post-season playoffs every year he been at the Lion helm and won the MACJC crown in 2009 before following with a 27-24 victory over Western Arizona in that year Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi. Last season, EMCC finished second in the North Division at 4-2 before falling to South champ Co-Lin in the first round of the state playoffs to wrap its season at 5-5 overall. East Mississippi leads the NJCAA in total offense, averaging 551.5 yards a game; while Pearl River is seventh with a 461-yard mark. The Lions and Wildcats are first and second, respectively, nationally in passing offense, averaging 403.5 and 353.3. In addition, EMCC quarterback Bo Wallace, a red shirt freshman transfer from Arkansas State, and German are one and two, respectively, in individual passing nationally. Wallace averages 392.7 per game (24 touchdowns) to German 347.2 (16 touchdowns). Both have thrown six interceptions through six weeks. The Lions are sixth in the league in rushing offense at 148 a game, while the Wildcats are 12th at 107.7. East Miss averages 44.3 points a game to Pearl River 30.5, while giving up an average of 22.8 to the Wildcats 19.8 on the defensive side. PRCC and EMCC are ranked seventh and eighth, respectively, in total defense in the MACJC. The Wildcats give up an average of 296.3 per game (eighth-best 126.3 rush, seventh-best 170 pass), while the Lions average 314.7 (13th-best 147.8 rush, sixth-best 166.8 pass). Saturday battle marks the 44th meeting between the two schools, with Pearl River leading the series with a 28-12-2 mark.The EMCC-PRCC Rivalry The Pearl River-East Mississippi rivalry dates back to 1933 with the Wildcats winning the inaugural match up 18-0, while the Lions won 14-6 in 1934. From there, PRCC dominated the series winning seven straight before tying 6-6 in 1947. A year later, legendary Wildcat head coach Dobie Holden arrived in Poplarville and compiled a 10-4-1 record from 1948 through 1966. Holden successor, John Russell (1967-73), was 2-1 against EMCC, while J.C. Arban was 3-3 during his stint from 1975-85. Willie Coats (1990-94) was 2-0, Keith Daniels (1995-2000) was 1-3, and Hatten is 1-0. Head coaches Harvey Seligman (1974), Mike Nelson (1986-89), and Scott Maxfield (2001) never faced East Mississippi during their tenures. The last time PRCC and EMCC locked horns was in the Wildcats 2004 state and national championship season when The River took a 40-0 blowout win in Poplarville. That contest ranks 18th in the largest victories by points in the Pearl River history. In 1999, Lion running back Sammy Brooks rushed for 124 yards to propel his team to a 35-3 non-division victory in Poplarville. East Miss finished with 385 yards of total offense (239 rush, 146 pass), while the Wildcats had 292 (131 rush, 161 pass). In 1998, East Miss recorded a 48-10 victory in Scooba, marking fifth-worse Wildcat loss in school history. PRCC hung tough for the first quarter, but EMCC reeled-off seven touchdowns four by running back Carl Fair, who went on to star at UAB to take the lopsided win. PRCC 63-13 win over East Miss in 1991 is the seventh-highest margin of victory in school history. In that game, the Wildcats amassed 529 yards of total offense and scored 35 points in the first half alone. The River took a high-scoring 42-35 victory in the two teams post-season meeting in 2008. The Lions won its only state championship in 2009, while PRCC has won an unprecedented 19 titles, including national championship in 1961 and 2004.Elsewhere Around The League Last Week In other South Division action around the MACJC last week, 10th-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast (5-1, 4-0) spoiled East Central (1-5, 0-3) Homecoming 37-21 at Decatur and 17th-ranked Hinds (5-1, 4-0) blasted Jones County (3-3, 0-3) 34-7 in Raymond, while in the North, Holmes (2-4, 2-1) dropped winless Mississippi Delta (0-6, 0-3) 33-10 in the Trojan Homecoming game in Goodman and Itawamba (2-4, 2-1) downed winless Coahoma (0-6, 0-4) 30-27 in its Homecoming contest in Clarksdale. Southwest Mississippi (3-3) upset 18th-ranked Northwest Mississippi (3-3) 28-14 in Summit in the only intra-divisional contest of the week. SMCC stands at 1-2 in the South Division, while NWCC is 1-3 in the North.Other MACJC Games This Week Three Thursday games all in the North Division are on tap for Week 7 with Coahoma hosting Northeast in Clarksdale, Itawamba hosting Holmes in Fulton, and Mississippi Delta hosting Northwest in Moorhead. Three other Homecoming games are set for Saturday in the South, including Co-Lin at Gulf Coast, East Central at Jones, and Hinds at Southwest.Listen To The Wildcats All Pearl River games are broadcast live on WFMM-FM (96.7) 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. Air time for Thursday broadcast is 4:30 p.m. You may also listen to the Wildcats over the internet by logging on to www.prcc.edu. Click on the icon at the bottom left of the screen, and follow the instructions.