When No. 7 Gulf Coast and Pearl River clash on Thursday night in Perkinston, there won't be any warm and fuzzy feelings for the other side. The annual meeting between arch-rivals transcends standings and leaderboards and is just a good old fashioned rivalry akin to others of regional four-year schools.
"It's a big rivalry. You and I both know it doesn't matter about anything but that night. It's anybody's ballgame. It's all about who shows up and plays the most complete game," Gulf Coast coach Chad Huff said. "We have to take control and take care of our business."
Thursday's showdown will be the 93rd meeting between the two schools dating back to 1926. PRCC holding a 53-38-1 advantage, but Gulf Coast has won the last nine, including a 7-0 victory in 2014.
"This game means a lot. There's a lot of close people involved in this," Huff said. "It's real similar to the Egg Bowl or the Iron Bowl. You have a lot of the same folks in the same area pulling for two different teams.
"It will be a good atmosphere. Always a good crowd and intense football game. It ought to be a really good game Thursday night."
The Bulldogs (5-1, 4-0 MACJC South) are coming off of arguably their most complete game of the season at Southwest, while the Wildcats (2-4, 1-3) are fresh off of upsetting top-ranked Copiah-Lincoln 17-9.
"They showed up Co-Lin. They went to Co-Lin for their homecoming and knocked them off," Huff said. "They're very well capable of beating anybody."
The Wildcats boast several Division 1 transfers, including Boston College QB Mack Lowrie and defensive linemen Maquedius Bain (LSU) and Blake McClain (South Carolina).
"They're big up front on defense," Huff said, "probably the best we've seen."
The Bulldogs have an imposing defensive end of their own in Isaiah Buggs.
The freshman is fourth on the team with 37 tackles and is tied for the team lead in
sacks with three. Last week he led the team with nine tackles, a career high.
"He's getting better. He's starting to get a hang of it. These kids when they come out of high school it doesn't matter what their talent level is, there's still a change in pace of the game and (it takes a while) to get used to the competition at the next level," Huff said. "He's doing a really good job, starting to look comfortable and just let it loose and go play.
"It showed last week for sure."
At 6-foot-4 and nearly 270 pounds, Buggs has a unique blend of size and speed that made the coaches giddy during the preseason.
"He's a strong kid who is quick and fast and plays hard," Huff said. "He has that mentality and has a lot of the tools you need down there to have an edge."
Kickoff at A.L. May Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m. The game can be seen on MGCCCBulldogs.com/BulldogLive.