Clutching his son, T.J., in his arms, first-year Pearl River Community College coach Ted Egger remained composed despite the magnitude of Saturday’s upset against Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
The Wildcats were dealt plenty of difficult blows this year from a late coaching change and scholarship reductions to losing their starting quarterback, and yet Egger’s team was more than merely competitive in all of its games.
Saturday, PRCC knocked off MGCCC 31-27 for the first time since a 30-27 overtime victory in 2010. The victory was just PRCC’s third in the series since 2006.
“They have been working hard all year and it’s great to see all their hard work pay off. This is the first time we’ve beaten that football team since (2010), so I love firsts,” Egger said, fresh off of an celebratory ice bath. “It’s a tribute to these kids and how hard they work. They continue to play until it says 0:00 on the clock. That’s what this game is all about. Teams that play until it’s 0:00 on the clock will always have an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter.”
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The loss, coupled with Jones County defeating Hinds 41-36, effectively eliminates Gulf Coast from postseason contention.
“Everything you can’t do in games like this, we did it,” MGCCC coach Chad Huff said after listing off a number of personal fouls and mistakes by his Bulldogs.
Gulf Coast (5-3, 3-2) took a 24-17 lead into halftime, but PRCC (4-4, 3-2) held the Bulldogs to just a 37-yard field goal by Mason Hunt in the second half.
In fact, it was PRCC’s defense that made the difference in the second half. The Wildcats’ pressured MGCCC quarterback Larry Sisson early in the fourth quarter and the former Resurrection standout threw an off balance pass that was intercepted by Zhaunte McElroy. The turnover with MGCCC clinging to a 27-24 advantage gave the home team prime field position and the Wildcats capitalized.
With a defensive end rapidly crashing from the edge, PRCC quarterback Markevion Quinn pump faked, freezing the Bulldog long enough to allow him to maneuver around the left side for the 4-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“He found a way to get in. That’s what he’s been doing all year,” Egger said. “He finds a way to break tackles and get into the end zone. That’s a good thing to have.”
Quinn took plenty of hits throughout the game but still completed 17 of 31 passes for 151 yards, including an early 26-yard strike to K.J. Breland that tied the game 7-7.
He also rushed 12 times for 45 yards and three scores on runs of 8, 7 and finally 4 yards.
Gulf Coast opened the scoring early in the first quarter when Derrick Beckom blocked a punt deep in PRCC’s territory and then fell on the loose ball in the end zone.
Following Quinn’s touchdown pass to Breland, PRCC received some special teams magic of its own on its next possession. Although the Wildcats punted the ball away, the Bulldogs fumbled the catch and Heath Greenlee recovered to set up Quinn’s 8-yard score.
Former Stone High standout Terrion Avery tied the game up on the Bulldogs’ next possession with a 6-yard run.
After Mikail Webb intercepted Quinn to open the second quarter, former Gautier star Deandre Torrey punched the ball in from 4 yards out to put Gulf Coast ahead 21-14.
PRCC’s Mark Johnson converted a 21-yard field goal and Hunt booted a 27-yarder to round out the first half scoring.
PRCC looked like it was going to tie the game late in the first half when Quinn took the snap and scrambled around the right side. Gulf Coast’s James Washup and R’Tarriun Johnson collided with Quinn as he hit the goal line, jarring loose the football. Ty Peters scooped up the ball and returned it 100-plus yards for a touchdown but the Bulldogs were flagged on the return and ended up kneeing out the half with a 24-17 advantage.
After struggling to move the ball consistently in the second half, Gulf Coast took over on its own 40 with 3:15 remaining and proceeded to march down the field before facing a fourth-and-7 at PRCC’s 27. Sisson delivered a ball over the middle to quarterback-turned-receiver Torrance Gibson, but Daylon Burks swatted away the ball to extinguish the Bulldogs’ threat.
“When it hit the turf I knew it was over with. Ballgame,” Burks said. “It was a good feeling.”
PRCC ran out the final 104 seconds on the clock to secure the monumental win.
Sisson completed 6 of 17 passes for 83 yards. Torrey led MGCCC with 115 yards on 19 carries. Avery added 93 yards on 18 touches. Caleb Batie led PRCC’s rushing attack with 120 yards on 25 carries. Tyler Polk caught seven passes for 44 yards, while Breland finished with a team-high 51 yards on four receptions.
Although Gibson had missed the last two games, the former Ohio State quarterback rejoined the Bulldogs this week.
“Torrance Gibson has been making steps to become a part of the Gulf Coast football team again,” Huff said in a pre-game statement. “When he completes those steps, he’ll have the opportunity to compete for playing time.”
Gibson blocked on Avery’s touchdown and was targeted several times but did not record a catch.
Although the Bulldogs are out of the playoffs, Huff still challenged his players during his post-game talk.
“My message to the guys was this is life. Life gets tough. It’s never like you want it to be. This was a tough one to swallow – and felt like one we should have been able to finish and get. Hats off to Pearl River, that’s a team that stepped up. You can throw records out in games like this. It’s about moving on, what you do next and how you handle the situation.
“Our next step forward will define who we are as individuals, coaches and as a team.”
Gulf Coast returns to action next Saturday in Perkinston for a 3:30 p.m. homecoming kickoff against JCJC. PRCC travels to Copiah-Lincoln for a 3 p.m. start.