Pearl River Set to Meet NE Miss. in Playoffs

POPLARVILLE — Defending NJCAA and MACJC football champion Pearl River wrapped up its 2005 regular season here Thursday with a 45-3 blowout over Copiah-Lincoln to set the stage for its post-season playoff appearance Nov. 12 against undefeated and second ranked Northeast Mississippi. PHOTO: Pearl River's Gabe Fairman (40) lunges across the goalline for his second TD - Photo By Mitch Deaver.

The Wildcats, ranked ninth in the latest NJCAA poll, proved no match for the Wolves who wrapped their season at 1-6 overall and 0-6 in the South Division. PRCC improved to 6-1 and 5-1.

Pearl River scored three times in the opening quarter to jump out to a commanding 21-0 lead, while Co-Lin's only points of the night came via a Chris Blackwell 27-yard field goal after the Wolves pounced on a fumbled punt return at the Wildcat 21 late in the first period. Fourth-year PRCC head coach Tim Hatten was elated with the convincing victory.

"Anytime you score 45 points and hold the opposition to three, that's good stuff," Hatten said. "Offensively, we were sharp in the first quarter, but got complacent after that. We played well defensively and we need solid defense if we going to win a third-straight state championship."

The Wildcats cashed in on its first possession of the game when All-American quarterback Jimmy Oliver hit Larry Freeman with a nine-yard scoring pass with 9:19 left in the first. Running back Mike McClendon opened the series with a run, then Oliver completed five straight throws, including two to Brandon Fountain for a combined 37 yards to set the stage for his 22nd TD pass of the year. Scott Hillery's extra point was wide.

Co-Lin answered with a three-and-out and Pearl River went to work with four straight running plays — the last two good for a combined 22 yards by Seth Hayden — then Oliver zipped a 24-yard touchdown pass to the freshman from Pearl River Central for the Wildcats' second score. Oliver also passed to Hayden for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 5:54 left in the first period.

Sixteen seconds later, Murphy's Law seemingly prevailed for the Wolves after the initial snap on their ensuing possession sailed over quarterback Cedric Johnson's head into the end zone where PRCC's Shalamar Walker recovered for a third Wildcat touchdown. Hillery's PAT made it 21-0. Co-Lin then recovered Pearl River punt returner Derwyn Cooley's fumble at its own 21 and moved to the 10 in five plays to set the stage for Blackwell's field goal for the final points of the opening quarter.

Pearl River padded its lead on its first possession of the second period with an eight-play 68-yard drive with Gabe Fairman capping the march with a one-yard plunge with 9:49 left in the half. Oliver had completions to J.J. Smith for 21 yards and Chris Wright for 12, while Oliver kept for 14 before giving McClendon back-to-back carries for 21 to set the stage for Fairman's score. Hillery's PAT made it 28-3.

Starting at his own 30, Johnson completed a 48-yard pass to Bud Chatman on the first play of the Wolves' ensuing possession, then flea-like back Johnathan Williams burst for 13 to the Wildcat nine before things bogged down and PRCC held on downs at the five.

Pearl River started its final possession of the half at its own six and drove to midfield before Michael Bibbs picked off Oliver's bomb at the Wolves' five just seconds before the intermission.

Midway in the third period, PRCC's Charles Brown intercepted Johnson at his own 25 and returned his pick 61 yards before lateraling to defensive lineman Rodney Millsap who then leaped over a sideline defender to speed for the endzone. Hillery's kick made to 35-3 with 7:23 left in the quarter.

Walker picked off a second Co-Lin pass at midfield three snaps into the Wolves' ensuing possession and returned his pick 39 yards to the 11 to set the stage for Hillery's 22-yard field goal five plays later to pad PRCC's lead to 38-3.

Pearl River closed out the third period with back-to-back runs by Fairman for 23 yards, while the sophomore from Petal snagged an Oliver pass for seven before Wright burst for a 42-yard run to the Wolves' 16 to open the final quarter. Fairman took it in from their on the next snap with 14:06 left in the game. Hillery's boot ended the scoring to make it 45-3.

Co-Lin answered with an eight-play, 77-yard drive to the Wildcat six before Johnson was sacked for a minus-nine and Blackwell missed on a 32-yard field goal.

Running back Rashawn Robinson got five straight carries for 77 yards to kick off the march, including a third-and-one burst for 49 yards from his own 26. The Wildcats finished with 19 first downs to the Wolves' nine, while PRCC managed 411 yards of total offense (205 pass, 206 rush) to CLCC's 210 (79 pass, 131 rush). Oliver connected on 16 of 25 passes (two interceptions) for 190 yards, while running for another 34. Back up Tim Kulikowski was two-for-two for 15 yards, while Johnson was five-of-17 for 79 yards and two picks. Fountain led all receivers with four catches for 69 yards. Kulikowski punted three times for a 37.5-yard average, while Nick Gunter averaged 33.5 yards on seven kicks. PRCC was penalized five times for 50 yards, while CLCC drew four flags for 39.

Elsewhere Around The MACJC - In other Thursday night South Division action, Southwest Mississippi (4-3, 4-2) defeated East Central (3-4, 2-4) 20-17 in Summit and Jones (3-4, 3-3) pounced Hinds (3-4, 2-4) 47-21 in Ellisville. North match ups saw second-ranked division champ Northeast Mississippi (7-0, 6-0) drop Coahoma (3-4, 2-4) 30-14 in Clarksdale and playoff-bound Itawamba (6-1, 5-1) shutout East Mississippi (2-5, 2-4) 40-0 in Scooba. South champ Mississippi Gulf Coast (6-1, 5-1) splattered Holmes (2-5, 2-4) 49-28 in a non-division contest in Goodman. Mississippi Delta (2-4, 2-3) travels to Northwest Mississippi (1-5, 1-4) Saturday to wrap the MACJC's 2005 regular season.

MACJC Playoffs - The MACJC playoffs kick off Saturday, Nov. 12, with undefeated North champ Northeast Mississippi hosting South runner-up Pearl River in Keenum Stadium in Booneville and South champ Mississippi Gulf Coast hosting North runner-up Itawamba in A.L. May Stadium in Perkinston. Both games kick off at 2 p.m.  


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