Junior Colleges

Gulf Coast keeps good times rolling vs. Pearl River

The streak continues.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College used a late 71-yard touchdown from TRod Daniels to knock off rival Pearl River Community College 30-17 on Saturday at A.L. May Memorial Stadium.

“It’s a big game. They’re only 20 minutes away and there’s a lot of families involved on both sides of this football game. It’s a lot of fun and is big for recruiting,” MGCCC coach Chad Huff said of the homecoming victory. “Anytime you can beat Pearl River it’s a big win.”

Not only was the victory Gulf Coast’s 11th straight in the series, but it also kept MGCCC (5-3, 4-1) in contention for a post-season berth, while at the same time eliminating PRCC (2-6, 2-3).

Gulf Coast will head into next Thursday’s game at Jones County Junior College tied with East Central for first in the MACJC South Division at 4-1. Copiah-Lincoln, which beat Southwest on Saturday, is close behind at 3-2. Even with the victory, nothing is secured just yet.

“We’ll have to go and see what happens when we play,” Huff said.

Pearl River will conclude its season against Copiah-Lincoln on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Getting started

Saturday’s game got off to an interesting start as Pearl River receiver-turned-quarterback Timothy Arnold was intercepted deep in the Wildcats’ zone on two of its first three possessions by Tyler Glass and Dedric Smith. Still, the Bulldogs had to settle for 20- and 26-yard field goals.

PRCC briefly took a 7-3 lead on its second possession as Arnold hit former Pascagoula standout Matthew Eaton on the left side with a quick pass. The Temple transfer and recent Iowa State commit turned the corner and dove for the near pylon for a 12-yard score.

A 35-yard field goal by Rowland to open the second quarter briefly pushed Gulf Coast back ahead 9-7.

The Wildcats marched down the field on a 15-play, 91-yard drive that was capped once again by an Arnold-to-Eaton connection, this time going for 31 on a receiver screen.

The 14-9 advantage was short lived and would be PRCC’s final time ahead as Gulf Coast responded with its own lengthy drive. Quentin Frazier’s 2-yard run late in the half put MGCCC ahead 16-14 and the home team never relinquished the lead.

Different half

While PRCC had success hitting on several big plays in the first half, MGCCC clamped down in the final two quarters to limit the Wildcats’ chances.

“We started off playing very soft and timid. In the second half we picked it up, played our base zone and got after it,” MGCCC defensive coordinator Steve Davis said. “We have watched their offensive line all week of course and they were bad about holding. Our guys said we don’t care if they hold us or not we’re going to do our job and they came to play.”

PRCC Running back Darious Leggett entered the week among the NJCAA’s leaders averaging 111 yards per game. He started off hot for PRCC, especially getting yards after first contact, but as the game wore on the Bulldogs did a better job of limiting his yardage. He finished with 70 yards on 18 carries..

“He came in banged up but that didn’t stop him from being the player he is. He’s athletic and elusive, but when you keep him in front of you he has nowhere to go,” MGCCC defensive end Isaiah Buggs said. “That’s what we did tonight, kept him in front of us.”

Former Resurrection standout Larry Sisson made his second straight start for Gulf Coast with previous starter Kalen Whitlow listed as day-to-day with an injury. Sisson finished the game 14 of 21 for 171. His lone touchdown came early in the second half on a 30-yard pass over the middle to Lester Wells. The receiver danced around the closest defensive back and then out-ran the Wildcat secondary for the score to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 23-14.

“I thought he executed really well. He made some plays. He wasn’t perfect, but I was glad to see him handle himself,” Huff said of Sisson. “It’s a big game and just his second start on homecoming with a crazy atmosphere. He didn’t get rattled. What he does a really good job of is moving on to the next play.”

PRCC hung around, however, scoring on a 29-yard field goal from former Bay High standout Mark Johnson on its next possession.

The next six possessions ended in punts, setting up Daniels’ wild run.

The Southern Miss commit took a handoff around the left side, juked several defenders and found a lane down the PRCC sideline for the 71-yard score.

“They knew we were going to run it,” Huff said of Daniels, who finished with 174 yards on 21 carries. “We had hat on hat and I said if he gets a crease he’s at least going to hit it and get us four or five. Shoot, before you know it I look up and he’s gone.”

PRCC did get back across midfield on its final possession but was unable to find the end zone to hang around longer.

“The team came right back and got within a score late in the fourth. You couldn’t ask for more,” PRCC coach David Saunders said. “It came down to the last three minutes of the game and 28, the best player on the field for them, made a play.

“Our defense played hard and competitive. We just had some self-inflicted things there.”

Statistical leaders

Arnold finished 11-for-20 for 185. Eaton had seven receptions for 106 yards. … GeVonte Jones rushed for 55 yards on 12 carries for MGCCC. Wells led Gulf Coast with seven receptions for 92 yards.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs