Wildcats fall 27-17 to Rangers in 2009 football opener

POPLARVILLE – Thirteenth-ranked Pearl River Community College couldn”t overcome its five costly turnovers here Thursday and 22nd-ranked Northwest Mississippi cruised to 27-17 MACJC non-division season-opening victory in Dobie Holden Stadium.The 10-point win marked the first time in five meetings the visiting Rangers pulled out a win in the nine-year coaching stint of Wildcat mentor Tim Hatten.NWCC improved to 1-0, while PRCC fell to 0-1.”There”s not a team anywhere that can overcome five turnovers…particularly when the opposing team has only two,” Hatten said. “But I felt we played okay considering the difference in the turnover battle.”Despite the loss, redshirt freshman quarterback Melvin German of Ft. Myers, Fla., put on an impressive aerial show, completing 33 of 48 passes (one interception) for 341 yards; but was sacked a whopping seven times – six times in the first half – for minus-66 yards which directly accounted for the Wildcats” negative 49 yards of rushing offense on the night.German connected with freshman Seth Roberts of Tallahassee, Fla., six times for 100 yards and PRCC”s first TD on the game”s opening possession; while freshman Steve McNair, Jr., of Oak Grove High had 10 catches for 99 yards. Freshman Snoop Rollins of North Forrest also caught five passes for 57 yards.”Melvin”s going to get better and our receiving corps are going to get better,” Hatten said. “This is probably the best I”ve ever felt coming off a loss. We showed plenty of potential on both sides of the ball tonight.”The Wildcats almost dug themselves a hole in the opening minutes of the game when punter Beau Underwood threw incomplete on a fourth and four at his own 22.”That was suppose to be a rugby kick kind of thing,” Hatten explained. “Beau was suppose to kind of roll to his right and boot it, but for some reason got rattled and opted to throw it and it was incomplete.”Ranger quarterback Brent Osborn hit Myles White with an eight-yard completion on the first ensuing Northwest snap, but White coughed up the ball and River DB Scottie Woodson of Columbia High recovered at the 14.From there, The River drove the field in eight plays with German capping the drive with a 40-yard touchdown strike to Roberts, who also snagged a 15-yarder earlier in the series. Each team drew 15-yard flags during the possesion. Travis Bradley of Pascagoula High kicked the extra point to put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 10:04 left in the first quarter.After back-to-back three and outs, the Rangers got on the scoreboard with a 27-yard field goal by Kevin Buford. Starting at its own 36, Northwest stayed on the ground on seven of the 10 plays of the drive. Pearl River also drew a 15-yard penalty on the series to move things from the Wildcat 40 to the 25.It appeared The River would answer on its ensuing drive. After the Rangers” kickoff sailed out of bounds, things cranked up at the Wildcat 40. German connected with freshman RB Steve Simon of East Marion and McNair for seven and 13 yards, respectively, over the first three snaps. After taking a 10-yard sack, German hit LSU transfer Jhyryan Taylor with a 10-yard completion, but the sophomore from Franklinton, La., fumbled and Northwest recovered at its own 48.Osborn connected with Myles White for 42 yards on first down to the Wildcat 10, then again for six to the four where Calvin Malone carried it in for the go-ahead score with 13:15 left in the half. Buford”s PAT made it 10-7 Northwest.The two teams exchanged punts over the next four possessions, but the Wildcats were victimized by another turnover late in the half.After McNair”s five-yard punt return to his own 28, German hit Rollins with a 21-yard completion to the Northwest 33 to convert a third and five from near midfield, but Rollins coughed up the ball and the Rangers recovered. Wildcat DB Tobias Irby of Oak Grove High answered when he picked off Osborn two snaps later, but a 15-yard personal foul penalty on The River pushed things back to the 17. Simon”s two straight carries killed the first-half clock.Pearl River held Northwest to a three and out to open the second half, but McNair muffed Buford”s punt inside his own 10 and the Rangers recovered at the seven. Four plays later, Osborn hit White with a four-yard completion for the score. Buford”s PAT made it 17-7 with 11:31 left in the third period.After McNair returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards to his own 39, German was picked off by Brandon Lawrence three plays into the series at the Ranger 27. Six plays later, McNair again fumbled a NWCC punt – this time at the PRCC 17 – and the Rangers recovered. Buford booted a 28-yard field goal four snaps later to make it 20-7 with 6:35 left in the third.The River cranked up its ensuing possession at its own 20 and German drove the Wildcats to the Ranger six in 10 plays – all through the air – setting the stage for Bradley”s 25-yard field goal with 3:41 left in the period to make it 20-10. German was seven of 10 on the drive.A bit of Wildcat trickery set the tone for the ensuing kickoff as Bradley on-sided his boot and PRCC recovered at the Ranger 46. Again, German stayed exclusively with the pass, going four for nine for 52 yards, hitting freshman Leonard Johnson of East Marion with a 10-yard completion for the score. Bradley”s extra point cut Northwest”s lead to three – 20-17 – with 1:10 left in the third.Northwest”s Jay Jones returned the following kickoff 30 yards to his own 45. Three snaps later, a Wildcat pass interference penalty pushed things to the PRCC 34. Eight plays later, Osborn”s 11-yard TD pass to Jones and Buford”s extra point put the Rangers back up by 10 – 27-17 – with 12:48 left in the game.After three punt exchanges, Northwest put together a clock-killing, 67-yard drive that eventually died at the Wildcat four as time expired.PRCC finished the night with 332 yards of total offense to NWCC”s 330 (124 rush, 206 pass), while Simon led Wildcat rushers with 39 yards on eight attempts.Malone paced the Rangers” ground game with 89 yards on 32 carries, accounting for 34 yards on the game”s final possession. White finished the night with a game-high 114 yards on seven receptions.Other Wildcat receivers included Simon with three catches for 29 yards, Taylor with two for 27, Johnson three for 16, Daryl Bourne of Hattiesburg High with one for 12, and Derrick Bourne of Columbia High with one for one.Pearl River was flagged 15 times for a costly 144 yards to Northwest”s six for 65, while the Wildcats had 16 first downs to the Rangers” 13.Other Season-Opening Action In The MACJCIn other season-opening action around the MACJC – all non-division games – 19th-ranked Jones County demolished Mississippi Delta 34-3 in Moorhead, Northeast Mississippi wiped out East Central 34-6 in Decatur, Southwest Mississippi nipped Holmes 21-20 in Goodman, Copiah-Lincoln blew out 25th-ranked Coahoma 33-6 in Wesson, Hinds bombed Itawamba 52-31 in Fulton, and fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast defeated seventh-ranked and defending state champ East Mississippi 40-21 in Perkinston.Next Week In The MACJCNext week sees another line up of non-division Thursday games around the state. Pearl River hosts Itawamba in Poplarville, Coahoma hosts Jones County in Clarksdale, Copiah-Lincoln hosts Holmes in Wesson, Northwest Mississippi hosts East Central in Senatobia, East Mississippi hosts Hinds in Scooba, Mississippi Gulf Coast hosts Mississippi Delta in Perkinston, and Southwest Mississippi hosts Northeast Mississippi in Summit.

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