POPLARVILLE - Pearl River Community College will induct five new members into its Sports Hall of Fame here Saturday (Oct. 13) as part of the college’s 2012 homecoming celebration.
The list includes PRCC men’s basketball coach Richard Mathis, who has won state five state championships at the school and won more than 640 games in his career as a head coach.
Other inductees include former football stars Jack Gallagher Jr. of Louisville, Ky. who was an All-State and All-American wide receiver from 1970-72; Sam Piazza of Ridgeland, who was an All-State and All-American offensive lineman at PRCC from 1974-75; former soccer star Drew Gallant of Summit, who was an All-State and All-American star at PRCC in 2003; and former softball star Megan Dawson of Mandeville, La., who was an All-State and All-American player at PRCC from 2002-04.
Induction ceremonies for the Sports Hall of Fame members will be held at 9 a.m. at the Technology Center on the PRCC campus.
All five will be recognized during the alumni luncheon set for 11:30 a.m. in the Crosby Hall cafeteria and during halftime of the PRCC-Co-Lin football game at Dobie Holden Stadium.
One explanation of Pearl River Community College coach Richard Mathis’ success as a basketball coach can be found in the numbers.
- His overall record at Pearl River: 384-206 and five state championships, the latest in 2009-10.
- His overall record as a college coach, including stints at East Mississippi and Northeast community colleges as well as Jacksonville (Ala.) State and PRCC: 643-295.
He’s been a basketball coach since 1969, beginning as a freshman coach at the University of Southern Mississippi. At 65 years old, he’s been a head coach for 37 years. He’s coached on the high school, junior college and college level.
Coupled with several regional and national tournament appearances and no less than eight coach-of-the-year honors, his accomplishments speak for themselves.
“I still enjoy it,” said Mathis. “I still enjoy practice everyday. I enjoy trying to take a group of guys and making a team out of them.”
After a stellar career at Hattiesburg High School, Jack Gallagher’s plan was to play one year of football at PRCC, then transfer to a major college.
“I actually wanted to play for the University of Miami, but they could not bring in any more out of state players at the time, so I came to Pearl River,” said Gallagher. “I did so well there my first year, I stayed for two years.”
One reason the 1971 and 1972 Pearl River Community College Wildcats finished with a combined 18-2 record, including a No. 5 ranking in the nation in 1972 was the talented Gallagher, who was a first-team All-American and All-State wide receiver-defensive back.
“We were a pretty dominant team back then, especially my sophomore year,” said Gallagher, who makes his home in Louisville, Ky. “It seemed like every time we played, we scored on our first series. It was like that was scripted to happen.”
Sam Piazza was an All-American, All-State and All-Star offensive lineman for PRCC during his playing days from 1974-75.
The credit for all those accolades, he says, goes to his coaches and his teammates - mainly the players who lined up on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage
“We had some talent on that other side of the ball my sophomore year,” said Piazza. “I have to thank guys like Steve Moody, Ricky Cuevas, and Floyd Masoner. They were on the defensive line. Those guys made me a better offensive lineman. Saturday night games were easier than it was in practice going against those guys every day.”
Piazza, who owns his own insurance agency in Ridgeland, played defensive tackle as a freshman under Harvey Seligman and offensive tackle as a sophomore under J.C. Arban. The Wildcats were 7-2 his sophomore season when he was voted the South Division’s best offensive lineman.
Following a stellar career as a soccer player at Forrest County AHS, Drew Gallant wasn’t sure about his future.
He signed with Spring Hill College in Mobile and played his freshman year there before leaving school. He returned to Hattiesburg to work in construction, unsure about his future, but planning to return to school one day.
Enter PRCC soccer coach Adam Breerwood.
“I wasn’t in school at the time,” said Gallant. “Coach Breerwood found out and asked me if I would be interested in playing again. He offered me a scholarship. He took a chance on me, gave me the opportunity to come back.”
In 2003, Gallant came back in a big way. He scored 26 goals and had 24 assists in leading the Wildcats to a 17-3-2 record and their first-ever MACJC-Region XXIII championship. He scored all three goals in a 3-1 victory over Hinds for the title. He made the All-State, All-Region and All-American teams that year.
As athletes go, Megan Dawson’s path to Pearl River was not your usual one.
Most athletes are discovered at their high schools. Then-PRCC softball coach Laurie Neelis found Dawson playing travel ball. She was a pitcher and infielder.
“Coach Neelis recruited me from those travel teams,” said Dawson. “That’s how I got to Pearl River. Before that, I had never heard of the school.”
All Dawson, who graduated from Ursuline Academy in New Orleans in 2001, would do was carve her name into the PRCC record books.
As an all-state and all-region 23 softball player for the Wildcats from 2002-04, she batted .428. She was named to the 2003 NJCAA All-American squad her freshman year.
She is the second softball player inducted into the PRCC Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is a huge deal,” said Dawson. “I never thought in a million years I would receive this kind of honor. It just means all that hard work I went through has paid off.”