The preparations are over, now the time has come to kick off the 2017 football season at Pearl River Community College.
For the second consecutive season, the Wildcats will debut a new head coach, as Ted Egger will lead the team onto the field at Dobie Holden Stadium for the first time against ninth-ranked Northeast.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday
“I think we’re starting to come together as a team,” said Egger, who was promoted in June after serving as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “That’s the most important thing. We’re starting to play for each other.”
PRCC is looking to rebound after back-to-back 2-7 seasons in 2015 and 2016. Northeast was 6-3 last season, missing out on a playoff spot after finishing 3-3 in the North Division.
“We’re looking to continue to play fast and play physical,” said Egger.
“We’re just going to take care of this first game. I’m not really worried about anything but our football team, and what we can control. If we do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.”
The Wildcats will be inexperienced at the offensive skill positions, but Egger has liked what he’s seen so far offensively.
Sophomore Justin Agner (Woodstock, Ga.) will start at quarterback after transferring from Kent State in the off-season. PRCC loses 1,000-yard rusher Darious Leggett to graduation, but Egger touted a group of freshmen who been impressive in preseason camp.
Freshmen Ron Thompson (Bassfield), Chandler Roberts (Kemper County) and Jesse Pernell (Poplarville) will join redshirt freshman Caleb Batie (West Marion) in the backfield, and all will get a chance to carry the football.
“It’s going to be running back by committee,” said Egger. “We like what each of them brings to the table.”
The wide receiving corps is also green, but freshman Christian Williamson (North Forrest) and redshirt sophomore Malcolm Staten (Hancock) have looked solid in preseason.
Defensively, the Wildcats have veterans at most positions, but especially in the secondary, where sophomores Zhaunte McElroy (Forrest County AHS) and Daylon Burks (Lumberton) are being counting on heavily.
PRCC returns two starters at linebacker in Chase Crosby (Harrison Central and David Salser (Pearl River Central), and the Wildcats also have experience on the defensive line in sophomores Sigmund Lewis (Hattiesburg) and Devonta Brown (Broad Street).
“I think we’ve got some veteran leaders on that side of the ball,” said Egger. “They’re bringing the young guys along with them.”
The kicking duties will be handled once again by sophomore Mark Johnson (Bay), who was good on 24 of 25 PATs and boasted a 47.7-yard punting average last season.
This is the 36th meeting between the Wildcats and the Tigers, with PRCC owning a 30-5 advantage. However, Northeast won last year’s season-opening meeting at Booneville 17-14.
AROUND THE MACJC
There will be a full schedule of games on tap in the MACJC for Thursday night. Second-ranked East Mississippi opens defense of its 2016 state championship at home against Jones County, No. 5 Northwest opens at home against Hinds, 11th-ranked Holmes is also at home against East Central, No. 18 Copiah-Lincoln visits Mississippi Delta, Southwest entertains Coahoma and Itawamba is at Mississippi Gulf Coast.
ON THE AIR
Thursday’s game will air on WRJW-AM (1320) in Picayune and WFFF-FM (96.7) in Columbia and on supertalk.fm/listen, and will be livestreamed on prccmedia.com and youtube.com/pearlrivercollege.
(Photo by Lane Hall/PRCC Sports Information)
Pearl River Community College sophomore quarterback Justin Agner avoids the rush during the Wildcats’ final preseason scrimmage this past Thursday at Poplarville.