The Wildcats, 5-1 overall and 2-1 in South Division play, put on the most paltry offensive show of head coach Tim Hatten's five-year tenure at PRCC in the first half; amassing a meager 60 yards of total offense (47 pass, 13 rush) and trailed the upset-minded Bulldogs 7-0 at the intermission.
"That was the worst first half of football we've played since I've been here," Hatten said. "We just couldn't find a nitch and dropped way too many passes and made way too many bad throws."
Pearl River bounced back in the second half and took the lead for good when Seth Hayden of Pearl River Central plowed over from the one with 8:49 left after freshman cornerback Terrence Handy of Jackson Provine grabbed his first interception of his collegiate career to give the Wildcats ideal field position at the Holmes 29.
"We settled down and I told (quarterback) Larry (Freeman) to use his legs and move around and put the pressure on them (Holmes)," Hatten continued. "He did a great job in the second half."
After a scoreless first quarter, Holmes got on the board on its first possession of the second when flea-like quarterback-wide receiver Chris Herron (5-foot-6, 160 pounds) capped an 11-play, 74-yard drive with a nine-yard scoring pass to Antoine Courtney with 8:22 left in the half. Taylor Mullins added the extra point kick to make it 7-0.
From that point, Pearl River ran only 12 offensive plays before halftime; including one that saw defensive lineman Larry Hart intercept an Adam Robin pass at the Bulldog 38. The Wildcats managed only two first downs in the first two period,, while Holmes managed eight and finished with 122 yards (79 pass, 43 rush).
On PRCC's final possession of the third period, Freeman, sophomore from Fort Meade, Fla., engineered a 10-play, 55-yard scoring drive; scoring on a keeper from the 10 to knot the score at 7-7 following the PAT by Brad Bingham of Moss Point. Freeman went to the air only once in the series and kept four times for 29 yards, while Hayden had five carries for 25.
Holmes went three and out on its ensuing possession with Pearl River's J.J. Smith taking Mullins' punt at his own 10 and returning it 43 yards before having the ball stripped and recovered by the Bulldogs at their own 47.
One snap later, quarterback Zach Williams hit Herron over the middle for a 53-yard scoring pass to put Holmes back on top. Mullins' PAT made it 14-7 with 12:34 left.
Pearl River answered immediately when Freeman hit wide receiver Demetrius Byrd of Miami, Fla., with a 77-yard scoring pass on the Wildcats' second snap of their ensuing series. Bingham's PAT tied it up at 14-14.
Handy pulled off his pick two plays later to set up the game-winning scoring drive.
The Wildcats grabbed two straight interceptions in the waning seconds of the game with Brandon Burns of Columbiana, Ala., returning his for a 90-plus-yard score only to see it nullified as PRCC has 12 men on the field. On the next snap, Gene Anderson of East Marion grabbed his fourth pick of the season to douse Holmes' hopes.
Pearl River finished the afternoon with 303 yards of total offense (139 rush, 164 pass) to Holmes' 251 (62 rush, 189 pass); while the Wildcats mustered 13 first downs to the Bulldogs' 14.
Hayden led all rushers in the game with 93 yards on 20 carries, while Freeman kept 11 times for 44 and completed 12 of 18 (no interceptions) for 153 yards. Robin was two of six (one interception) for 11 yards.
Byrd grabbed a season-high six passes for a season-high 122 yards, while Herron led Bulldogs receivers with seven catches for 110 yards. Williams and Herron combined for a 19-of-29 effort through the air.
Penalties hurt PRCC throughout the game, as the Wildcats drew nine flags for 75 yards; while the Bulldogs had only two penalties for 10 yards.
Pearl River returns to action Saturday when it faces arch-rival Jones at 2 p.m. in Ellisville.
Elsew here Around The League
In other Saturday action around the league, Copiah-Lincoln defeated Hinds 34-28 in Wesson, Mississippi Gulf Coast pounded East Central 38-7 in Perkinston, and undefeated and fourth-ranked Jones shut out Southwest Mississippi 21-0 in Summit.