ELLISVILLE - Call it a 'Cat Fight for the ages.
Tenth-ranked Pearl River Community College scored on a four-yard shovel pass from quarterback Emil Jones to Ray Chisholm - both North Forrest High alums - with 1:02 left here Thursday to hand third-ranked Jones County its first loss of the 2008 football season 26-22.
But just over a minute-and-a-half earlier, however, it appeared that the Wildcats were destined for a second straight MACJC South Division defeat when Jones, a true freshman, muffed a shotgun snap at his own 21 with The River up 19-14 and JCJC linebacker Demorio Leverette picked up the miscue and sped untouched into the end zone for the Bobcats' only go-ahead score of the night.
JCJC quarterback Early James then passed to Anthony Jackson for the two-point conversion and the Bobcats led 22-19 with 2:37 remaining.
"We could've easily packed it in at that point," said seventh-year PRCC head coach Tim Hatten. "But I told Emil when we got the ball back: 'I've seen you do this time and time again when you were in high school and you can do it again right now.'
"As you can see, he did it."
It took only five snaps for the Wildcats kill the previously-unbeaten Bobcats' hopes for a sixth-straight victory. Starting at his own 25, Jones hit Darnell Jackson of Houston, Tex., with a 21-yard completion on first down, then kept for 16 an incompletion later to push things to the Bobcat 40. Jerry Duncan of Petal High followed with a dramatic 36-yard leaping catch at the four on the JCJC sideline to set up the game-winning reception by Chisholm.
"What can I say...it was a total team effort," Hatten added. "It wasn't a pretty win, but we accomplished our goal - to leave Ellisville 5-1 and regain control of our own destiny in the division. We're back in the thick of it (division race) now and we're feeling mighty good about that."
A week ago, PRCC fell to arch-rival Mississippi Gulf Coast 10-3 in Poplarville with the seventh-ranked Bulldogs pulling off the victory by scoring the only TD of the game with 1:20 left.
"I felt good about this game coming in, but after a loss like the one last week, you never really know how your guys are going to respond," Hatten said. "But obviously, we responded well."
Leverette intercepted Jones on the second play of the game and returned his pick to the Wildcat 42. James was sacked for a minus-13 on first down, then passed to Daniel Borne an incompletion later and the Bobcats punted it to the PRCC 14.
Rashod Henry of Lumberton High, who finished the night with a career-high153 yards on 17 carries, sped for 29 yard on first down, then Marcus Ball of Stone Mountain, Ga., ran for nine before Jones zipped an eight-yard completion to Desmond Ratliff of Canton to the Bobcat 35. Back-to-back carries by Henry went for nine and 25 yards to the three where Georgio Hall of Prentiss High carried it in for the game's first score. Jonathan Rayner of Petal High kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with 10:09 left in the opening period.
Three series later, Ball picked off James at the JCJC 30 and razzle-dazzled his way into the end zone, but his effort was KO'ed by an offsides penalty that wound up converting a third and five for the Bobcats. Four plays later, Tyler Caldwell boomed a 48-yard unreturned punt to the Wildcat 25.
Henry ran for 20 yards run on first down, then Jones' five-yard completion to Chisholm was complimented by a 15-yard personal foul penalty to push things to the Bobcat 35. Jones passed to Drew Ezell of Oak Grove for 20 yards six plays later to move things to the eight where Henry took it in from there. Rayner's PAT was no good, but PRCC led 13-0 with three ticks left on the first quarter clock.
Duncan had a punt blocked on the Wildcats first possession of the second quarter and the Bobcats wound up in ideal field position at the PRCC 24, but Jonathan Chancellor missed on a 39-yard field goal attempt on a fourth and eighth.
But the Bobcats redeemed themselves. Two plays later, JCJC's Darrion Wilson picked off Jones at the 20 and sped into the end zone for the Bobcats' first score. Chancellor's PAT made it 13-7 with 7:51 left in the half.
Pearl River drove inside the Jones County 10 on the final possession of the first half, but Rayner missed a 36-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
The Wildcats padded their lead on their second possession of the third quarter with Henry capping a four-play, 51-yard drive with a 30-yard run. He also had rushes of 11 and 10 yards in the series. The two-point conversion try failed, but PRCC led 19-7 with 9:56 left in the period.
Two series later, Duncan booted a perfect-picture 30-yard punt to pin the Bobcats at their own five, but it didn't take but seven snaps before James hit Tristan Purifoy with a 54-yard TD pass. Chancellor's extra point boot made it 19-14 with 1:57 left in the third.
Leverette's fumble return came some 14 minutes later, followed by the Jones-to-Chisholm game winner.
Pearl River finished the game with 456 yards of total offense (270 rush, 186 pass) to Jones County's 257 (46 rush, 211 pass), while the Wildcat had 23 first downs to the Bobcats' 13.
Besides Henry, Jones kept 14 times for 76 yards and completed 14 of 26 throws (two interceptions) for 144 yards. Ratliff also completed a pass for 42 yards. Duncan, who punted seven times for a 39-yard average, had two catches for 78 yards and Chisholm had eight for 57.
Caldwell punted 10 times for a 37.3-yard average.
PRCC, 5-1 overall, 2-1 in division play, was penalized seven times for 55 yards, while JCJC, 5-1 and 2-1, drew four flags for 35.
It's Homecoming for The River Saturday, Oct. 11, when division rival Copiah-Lincoln visits for a 3 p.m. game in Dobie Holden Stadium.
In Other MACJC Action This Week
In North Division action Thursday, Northwest Mississippi (3-3, 2-1) trimmed 19th-ranked Mississippi Delta (4-2, 2-2) 14-13 in Senatobia, while Itawamba (2-4, 2-2) bopped Holmes (2-4, 1-3) 33-29 in Fulton.
In non-division action Thursday, East Central (1-5) picked up its first win of the season with a 38-7 hammering of winless Northeast Mississippi (0-6) in Booneville.
One North Division game is set for Saturday with East Mississippi (4-1, 2-0) hosting Coahoma (3-1, 2-0) in Scooba, while in the South Division, Copiah-Lincoln (2-3, 1-1) hosts sixth-ranked and defending MACJC and co-national champ Mississippi Gulf Coast (4-1, 2-0) in Wesson and Southwest Mississippi (1-3, 1-2) hosts Hinds (2-3, 1-2) in Summit.