After a scoreless first quarter, Pearl River- the pre-season pick to repeat as national champions - took the lead for good midway in the second period when quarterback Jimmy Oliver of Columbia fired a nine-yard strike to wide receiver Jeffery Smith of Hattiesburg. Scott Hillery of Picayune added the first of his four PATs.
Oliver and Smith teamed up for the Wildcats' second tally, a 48-yard scoring pass play with just 33 seconds left before halftime.
The Warriors got on the scoreboard with 6:34 remaining in the third stanza on Ryan Gale's 50-yard field goal. Gale, a sophomore, is a product of Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala. Pearl River responded with a 56-yard touchdown scamper by running back Mike McClendon of Quitman with five minutes left in the third, extending the Wildcat lead to 21-3.
Running back Seth Hayden of Pearl River Central gave his team a 28-3 lead early in the final stanza when he found the end zone on a seven-yard burst. East Central found paydirt with just over five minutes remaining on tailback Terrance's McFadden's two-yard run, capping a short scoring drive set up when Warrior defensive back George Lowe of Columbus intercepted a Wildcat pass on the Pearl River 40 and returned it to the 23. A personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 11, and McFadden, a sophomore from American Heritage High School in Pampano Beach, Fla., tallied four plays later. Gale added the PAT.
Pearl River closed out the scoring when McClendon sprinted past the EC defense on a 65-yard jaunt with just a minute remaining. East Central had 156 yards total offense and seven first downs. Quarterback Eiljah McDonald of Morton completed 16 of 33 passes for 89 yards and had one interception. Letez Fortune of South Leake was the top receiver with seven catches for 39 yards. McFadden was the leading rusher with 90 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
Pearl River had 394 yards of offense and 11 first downs. Oliver completed 14 of 33 passes for 193 yards and two scores. He had three interceptions. McClendon was the workhorse for the Wildcats, as he rushed 18 times for 198 yards.
East Central goes on the road this week to take on East Mississippi Community College at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 29 in Scooba. The Lions fell 31-14 to Mississippi Delta Community College last week.
All Warrior football games can be on heard on the ECCC website (www.eccc.edu) and on KICKS 98 (98.3 FM) in Carthage featuring veteran broadcasters Melvin Wooten and Gilbert Barham.