Pearl River, Hinds wrap football seasons Thursday in Raymond

            POPLARVILLE — A winning season is on the line for first-year Pearl River Community College head football coach William Jones this Thursday when he and his Wildcats travel to 16th-ranked Hinds in the season finale for both squads.
            Jones will take on one of the most seasoned coaches in the MACJC in Gene Murphy who boasts a combined 148-54 (five ties) win-loss record in his two stints as the Eagles’ head man (1987-2003, 2010-present). Murphy, who also serves as Hinds’ athletic director, stepped down as head coach in 2003 after 17 seasons at the Eagle helm after winning an incredible six state championships, including four straight from 1994 through 1997. He returned to the program in 2010 and has compiled a 21-16 since.
            “Coach Murphy has the most impressive resume in our league. You can’t argue with the fact he’s won six state titles and 76 percent of the games he’s coached up there,” said Jones. “Things kind of dropped off when he stepped down back in ’03, but he’s apparently got things turned around and they’re back on a winning track.”
            All post-season playoff aspirations are gone for both squads, as the top two seeds from the North and South division were decided with last week’s action. Hinds is 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the South Division, while Pearl River is 4-4 and 2-3. The Eagles’ two losses were to division rivals playoff-bound and fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast (41-34 at Raymond) and fifth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln (19-10 at Wesson), but they bounced back to hand fourth-ranked and division champ Jones County its only loss of the season (24-20 at Ellisville) two weeks ago.
            HCC was ranked 15th in the NJCAA’s preseason Top 20 poll and moved up to 10th after its 49-7 season-opening win over Mississippi Delta in Moorhead. A 55-20 shellacking of Coahoma at Clarksdale followed and a No. 8 ranking before its back-to-back division losses to Gulf Coast and Co-Lin saw a drop to 11th, then 20th in the balloting.
            The Eagles fell out of the poll after week five, despite picking up division wins over East Central (48-14) at home and Southwest (40-20) in Summit, but rebounded to 16th after dropping JCJC. Last week, Hinds defeated non-division foe Holmes 27-13 in Raymond.
            Pearl River enters the game off its most impressive performance of the year with its 45-7 homecoming victory over East Central. The Wildcats boasted a season-high 469 yards of total offense (312 rush, 157 pass) in the lopsided win.
            The Wildcats opened their season with a 49-6 non-division loss to second-ranked East Mississippi before following with a 30-14 non-division win over Mississippi Delta --- both in Poplarville. Then came Jones County’s 34-16 victory in Ellisville to open both team’s division schedules, before the Wildcats took a 21-7 non-division win over Coahoma in Clarksdale and followed with a 38-14 division win over Southwest Mississippi before dropping a 19-17 home loss to Mississippi Gulf Coast and a 37-27 decision to Co-Lin in Wesson.
            “We’d love nothing better to end the year with a win and a winning season,” said Jones. “We’ll have our hands full up there Thursday.”
            A 6:30 p.m. kickoff is set for the division contest in Joe Renfro Stadium on the HCC campus in Raymond.
The Pearl River-Hinds Series
            Saturday’s match up marks the 74th time the two schools have locked horns on the gridiron with the Wildcats leading the series with 38 wins, 33 losses, and two ties. Pearl River has won nine of its last 12 match ups with the Eagles, including a 21-13 victory for the 2004 state title, 2005’s 48-26 blowout in Poplarville that marked a record 21 straight wins, 2006’s 36-7 pasting in Raymond, 2007’s season-ending 39-31 triple-OT win at home, 2008’s 27-10 road win, 2009’s 45-3 splattering at home, and 2010’s 37-19 Homecoming victory.
            Hinds has been victorious the past two meetings with a high-scoring 59-32 win in Raymond in 2011 and last year’s 26-16 win in Poplarville.
            PRCC trimmed Hinds 37-30 on the road in 2004’s regular-season battle, marking the first of only two losses for the Eagles that year. In 2003, the Wildcats bopped the Eagles 21-17 for its first MACJC title since 1976, but fell 31-27 in their regular-season battle on a controversial, last-minute 90-plus-yard kick off return in Poplarville.
            Pearl River took a 25-22 OT victory in 2001; marking the first time the Wildcats had beaten the Eagles since the 1992 season (a 21-16 win). PRCC followed with a 31-22 victory in Raymond in 2002. Prior 2001’s OT thriller, Hinds had reeled off eight straight wins over The River, while grabbing five of its 13 state championships.                 The Eagles have won six state titles in the last 14 seasons.
            Pearl River took a 53-0 victory in the inaugural meeting, then the series didn’t resume until 1941 with Hinds taking an 18-0 shutout, followed by a 30-18 victory in shortened 1942 season due to World War II.
Junior college football all over the state resumed in 1944 and the Eagles reeled off six straight wins over PRCC before the Wildcats answered with a lopsided 27-6 victory in 1950 in coach legend Dobie Holden’s fifth season in Poplarville. The two teams split the ensuing two years, then, in 1953, the rivalry saw its first of two ties (14-14) in the series. The Wildcats and Eagles finished that season as co-champions in the MACJC.
            After Hinds took a hard-fought 35-32 win in 1957, the Wildcats won four straight, including a 42-0 shutout in 1959 and a 44-6 lopside in 1961. Pearl River took state titles both of those seasons, including its only national championship in 1961.
            Holden retired following the 1966 season, giving up the reins to assistant John Russell who was perfect against the Eagles in his seven years at the Wildcat helm. Hinds scored only 63 points in seven games against Russell’s squads. Russell resigned prior to the 1974 season and assistant coach Harvey Seligman was elevated to head coach. Seligman’s unit fell 17-13 to Hinds.
            J.C. Arban took over the Wildcat program in 1975 and the former PRCC and Southern Mississippi offensive coordinator won five straight over the Eagles until Hinds took a 28-5 victory in 1980. In all, Arban was 7-4 against Hinds, but his last three losses — all in succession — were by a combined total of only 14 points.
            Mike Nelson succeeded Arban in 1986 and was 1-2-1 versus the Eagles until his departure in 1989, while Willie Coats was 2-3 from 1990 to 1994. The late Keith Daniels was winless at 0-6 from 1995 until midway into the 2000 season when he died of a brain hemorrhage five weeks into the 2000 season. Scott Maxfield pulled off the 2001 overtime victory in his only season at the Wildcat helm in 2001. Former Wildcat coach Tim Hatten (2002-2012) was 10-3 against the Eagles. Hatten won four straight MACJC state championships (2003 through 2006), including wins over Hinds for two of those titles in 2003 and 2004.
            Hinds has won a total of nine state titles, while Pearl River boasts an unprecedented 19, including an NJCAA national championship in 2004.
In Other MACJC Action Last Week
            In MACJC North Division action last week, second-ranked and division champ East Mississippi smashed Northwest Mississippi 79-7 in Senatobia, 20th-ranked Itawamba secured the North runner-up spot with a 36-33 nail biter over Northeast Mississippi in Fulton, and Mississippi Delta smacked Coahoma 20-7 in Moorhead. In the South, division champ Jones County defeated Southwest Mississippi 31-10 in Summit and seventh-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast secured the division’s runner-up spot with a 21-7 victory over fifth-ranked and defending state champ Copiah-Lincoln in Perkinston. Sixteenth-ranked Hinds dropped Holmes 27-13 in Raymond in the only intra-divisional match up of the week.
            The first round of the MACJC state playoffs are set for Saturday, Nov. 2, with North champ East Mississippi hosting South No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast in Scooba and South champ Jones County hosting North No. 2 Itawamba in Ellisville. The first-round winners will face off in the state title bout Saturday, Nov. 9, with the state champ playing host in the sixth-annual Mississippi Bowl at Biloxi High School in Biloxi Sunday, Dec. 8, against a yet-to-be-decided opponent.
Other Regular-Season Finales This Week
            In the final week of the MACJC regular season, fourth-ranked Jones County (7-1, 5-1) hosts Northwest Mississippi (1-7, 1-5) in the only intra-divisional contest of the week; while in the North, second-ranked East Mississippi (8-0, 5-0) hosts Itawamba (6-2, 4-1) in Scooba, Coahoma (1-7, 1-4) hosts Holmes (2-6, 2-3) in Clarksdale, and Northwest Mississippi (3-5, 3-2) hosts Mississippi Delta (2-6, 2-3) in Booneville. In the South, ninth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln (6-2, 3-2) hosts Southwest Mississippi (2-6, 1-4) in Wesson, East Central (1-7, 0-5) hosts fifth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast (7-1, 4-1) in Decatur, and Hinds (6-2, 3-2) hosts Pearl River (4-4, 2-3) in Raymond.
Wildcats Over The Airwaves
            All Pearl River games are broadcast live on WFMM-FM (97.3) in Hattiesburg, WFFF-FM (96.7) in Columbia, and WRJW-AM (1320) in Picayune. Fourteen-year play-by-play announcer Jason Baker, 12-year color commentator Clay Sweet, and sideline reporter Jeff Lossett will handle the broadcast. Airtime for Thursday’s PRCC-Hinds broadcast is 6 p.m. You may also listen and watch (via live stream) to the Wildcats over the world wide web by logging on to Click on the icon at the bottom left of the screen, and follow the instructions.

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