River-East Central rivalry hits gridiron for 73rd time Saturday

            POPLARVILLE — Pearl River has high hopes of getting back on a winning track Saturday, as the Wildcats host MACJC South Division rival East Central for their 2013 homecoming game in Dobie Holden Stadium.
            The River, 3-4 overall and 1-3 in division play, enters the game off a 37-27 setback to fifth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln in Wesson; while ECCC, 1-6 and 0-4, celebrated its homecoming with a 36-31 non-division win over Mississippi Delta in Decatur for its first victory of the year.
            Saturday’s division battle marks the 73rd meeting between the two schools with Pearl River sporting a 50-19 (four ties) W-L mark.
            “They (East Central) have had a hard go of it this year, but they finally got a win under their belts last week and would like nothing better than to hand the Wildcats a homecoming loss this go around,” said first-year PRCC head coach William Jones. “They’ve got a brand new coach (Ken Karcher) who has been around football a long, long time on the college and professional levels. He obviously knows his stuff and we’re looking for them to come in here with a solid game plan.”
            Karcher spent several seasons as a quarterback with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, serving as NFL Hall of Famer John Elway’s back up in Super Bowl XXII. In addition, he has served as an NFL and World League assistant, as well as assistant coaching stints on the Division I collegiate level.
            The Warriors opened their season with back-to-back road losses, including a 40-7 non-divison setback to 20th-ranked Itawamba in Fulton in their opener and a 59-0 blowout to second-ranked East Mississippi in Scooba. Co-Lin handed East Central a 23-0 shutout in its home and division opener in Decatur, then Southwest Mississippi was a 24-7 division victor in Summit the following week. A 48-14 division to 16th-ranked Hinds followed at Raymond before sixth-ranked Jones County walloped East Central 47-0 in Week 6 in Decatur.
            The Wildcats, on the other hand, opened its season with a 49-6 non-division loss to East Miss 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.
            Pearl River leads the age-old series with 50 wins and 19 losses, while there have been four ties in the series that dates back to 1935. The Wildcats took a lopsided 20-8 victory in the inaugural match up, but the following season the two teams battled to a 7-7 deadlock. PRCC rebounded with a 13-0 win in 1937, but the Warriors
answered the shutout three straight wins in 1938, 1939, and 1940.
            East Central was a 26-16 winner over PRCC in Decatur in 2001’s regular season finale, which decided the South Division’s No. 2 seed in the MACJC post-season playoffs. With the win, the Warriors grabbed the playoff berth and KO’ed the Wildcats’ post-season aspirations. The Warriors were defeated by Mississippi Delta in the
opening round of the playoffs.
            Pearl River took a 13-9 victory over the Warriors in Decatur in Hatten’s inaugural season to wrap up 2002 and finish with its first division title in a decade with a perfect 6-0 league record. In 2003, the Wildcats blew out the Warriors 35-6 in Decatur.
            PRCC’s 2004 blowout in Poplarville is ranked 10th among the school’s top victories by points, while the Wildcats opened their season by defeating the Warriors 35-10 in 2006 on the road, then pounced their likes 33-22 in 2007 in Decatur. In 2008, The River still squeaked into the post-season playoffs as the South’s No. 2 seed
despite East Central’s 44-38 overtime win in both teams’ regular-season finales.
            In 2009, the Wildcats took a 30-27 overtime victory in Decatur off a 37-yard field goal by Travis Bradley and were 44-13 winners in 2010 at home. Last season, Pearl River took a 31-13 victory in Decatur.
            Prior to the division-clinching win in 2002, the last time PRCC defeated the Warriors was in 1995 by a lopsided 58-10 score. ECCC followed by reeling off six straight victories, including 1999’s 46-7 splattering in Poplarville which is the secondworst loss by a PRCC team in school history.
            Lopsided scores are not uncommon in the series. PRCC’s 48-point victory in 1995 was one of the biggest wins in Wildcat history, while in 1969, Pearl River won 61-18 in a game that saw 47 points come its way in the first half alone.
            In 1953, Pearl River was 51-13 victors, amassing 612 yards of total offense — the third-highest total in school history, including 425 yards on the ground — while in 1993 the Wildcats rushed for 457 yards in a 35-7 victory, which is the highest rushing total in school history.
            In legendary PRCC head coach Dobie Holden’s inaugural season with the Wildcats in 1946, the two schools battled to a 0-0 deadlock, but over the next 19 seasons Holden won 14 and lost only two. John Russell, Holden’s long-time assistant coach and head coaching successor, lost 20-11 in his first game with the Wildcats in
1967, but won six straight before resigning before the 1974 season.
            J.C. Arban arrived on the scene in 1975 and recorded a 6-4-1 mark, while he was followed by Mike Nelson who won three and lost one. Willie Coats, who left PRCC for East Central following the 1994 season, was a perfect 5-0 against the Warriors, while Keith Daniels, who coached the Wildcats from 1995 until midway of
the 2000 season when he died of a brain hemorrhage, was 1-4 in five-and-a-half seasons.
            Last season, Pearl River was a 37-7 winner in Decatur in former head coach Tim Hatten’s final year with the Wildcats.
            East Central has never won a state championship, while The River has won an MACJC record 19, including two national titles in 1961 and 2004.
            In MACJC North Division action last week, second-ranked East Mississippi bombed Northeast Mississippi 59-0 in Scooba, Coahoma picked up it first win of the year with a 47-41 victory over 20th-ranked Itawamba in Clarksdale, and Holmes celebrated its homecoming with a 17-14 win over Northwest Mississippi in Goodman. In other South Division action, 16th-ranked Hinds nipped sixth-ranked Jones County 24-20 in Ellisville and seventh-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast smacked Southwest Mississippi 48-7 in Perkinston.
            Four Thursday and three Saturday games are set for next week. North Division Thursday match ups include Northwest Mississippi (1-6, 1-4) hosting undefeated East Mississippi (7-0, 4-0) in Senatobia and Itawamba (5-2, 3-1) hosting Northeast Mississippi (3-4, 3-1) in Fulton, while Hinds (5-2, 3-2) hosts Holmes (2-5, 2-3) got its homecoming in Raymond and is the only intra-divisional game of the week. Two other homecoming contests are set for Saturday, including Coahoma (1-6, 1-3) at Mississippi Delta (1-6, 1-4) at Moorhead in the North, while in the South, Mississippi Gulf Coast (6-1, 3-1) hosts Copiah-Lincoln (6-1, 3-1) in Perkinston.
            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. Play-by-play announcer Jason Baker, amidst his 14th season behind the Wildcat microphone, long-time color commentator Clay Sweet, and sideline reporter Jeff Lossett will handle the broadcast. Air time for Thursday’s broadcast is 1:30 p.m. You may also watch (via livestream) and listen to the Wildcats on the world wide web by logging on to www.prcc.edu (click on the icon at the bottom left of the screen, and follow the instructions).

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