Pearl River Central High School has landed a member of the Pearl River County coaching tree to take over its football program.
PRCHS has offered its head coaching job to Poplarville offensive coordinator Jacob Owen and he has accepted.
“I’m very excited. God is good,” Owen said Tuesday night. “He shut many doors in my journey in this profession and I never knew that this one would open up and it did. I’m just living my dream.”
Owens’ hiring is pending school board approval, but that’s usually considered a formality.
“Poplarville has been so great,” Owen said. “I’m extremely blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to work there. The community is fired up about football and they have great kids. I made a lifetime of memories there.
“Peal River Central is a community that’s on fire for football as well. They have great kids that work hard. I’m excited about that opportunity. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by (superintendent Alan Lumpkin) and I have to thank committee members (PRC assistant principal Chris Teal, PRC principal Stacy Baudoin and Eli Ouder) for taking a chance on a guy that didn’t have head coaching experience. It’s hard to get your foot in the door without head coaching experience. I’m very appreciative of them for that”
Poplarville head coach Jay Beech hates to see his offensive coordinator move on, but he knows it’s a good opportunity.
“I think they got a very good coach,” Beech said. “I think he’s going to do great things there. He’s an extremely hard working coach. I believe he’s going to do a great job there.”
Owen will replace Larry Dolan, who stepped down after two seasons to pursue opportunities closer to home in the Hattiesburg area.
A Pearl River Central graduate, Owen has played a key role in helping develop Poplarville into a Class 4A contender. The Hornets won the Class 4A South State title in 2016 and came up just short of retaining the trophy in a 52-45 loss to East Central in 2017.
Poplarville’s Wing-T offense has proven difficult for defenses to stop in recent seasons. The Hornets averaged 407.1 yards on the ground in 2017.
Owen, 34, will bring that offense with him to PRC.
“I think if you look at the history of PRC football they’ve had a lot of success just when they lined up with a tight end and a couple of backs and tried to run the ball,” Owen said. “Me trying to do anything else would not be very smart.”
Prior to arriving at Poplarville, Owen worked as an assistant at New Hope High School. He coached in two Class 4A North State title games during his time there.
Before landing at New Hope, Owen’s first year as a high school football coach was spent as an assistant at Pearl River Central during the 2005-06 school year.
Owen realizes he has a tall task ahead in his second stint as a football coach at PRC.
“I know we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “I just want us to work hard. We’re going to work hard, be tough. We’ll play extremely hard for four quarters. As a player when you come out and hear those jugs shaking and smoke rolling over the field with the concession stand back there, it sends chills down your neck. I haven’t been on the sideline in a long time — 12 years as a matter of fact. It’s still special to me.”
Owen, who is a cousin of East Central head coach Seth Smith, said his family is “super excited” about the new job.
“Nobody knows how hard you work more than your wife,” Owen said. “Everybody sees that you’re working hard and they appreciate it, but they don’t know how much you’re away from home. Your wife has to fill that void when you’re gone. I couldn’t ask for a better wife (Lauren) and the support system she’s given me. My kids sacrificed as well when we moved to Poplarville. We took a chance there. It was a leap of faith and we trusted in God. God blessed us when we came to Poplarville.”
Owen had an unconventional playing career during his high school days at Pearl River Central.
“I started my junior year at nose guard and I was 5-9, 165 pounds,” he said. “We ran a five-man front with a little nose guard. I was that guy. The next year, I was the starting quarterback. I don’t know if I was any good at either, but I was well-rounded either way.”
Beech believes Owen is truly deserving of this opportunity.
“I’m sad that he’s not going to be here,” Beech said. “It’ll be hard to replace him. He’s such a good coach. With that being said, I’m excited for him. He’s put in the hard work and he’s shown so much dedication and loyalty. To see him get a head coaching job makes me happy.”
Pearl River Central is coming off a 1-10 season, but the Blue Devils had plenty of success with the Wing-T offense when Eric Collins served as their head coach for six seasons prior to Dolan’s arrival. PRC twice had 11-win seasons under Collins.