HATTIESBURG-- For the first time in two decades, Pearl River Central captured the Region 4-5A Championship, beating Hattiesburg 35-13.
Christian Roberts ran for 193 yards and four touchdowns, while Hunter Holifield added 192 yards and a score. PRC (9-1) ran for 508 yards.
PRC coach Eric Collins invoked the memory of sophomore Blue Devil football player Shane Smith, who died July 24 in a car accident close to Purvis.
"Like I've always said, Shane is always in our hearts, and I'm so proud because I know he would be proud to be a part of this -- he's a big part of this. I know that he's proud of what's happened," he said.
PRC played a well-balanced game with their defense making key plays and the offense then capitalizing on those opportunities.
Roberts set the tone early in the game for PRC with an electric 62-yard touchdown run just 1:37 into the game giving the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead following the extra point.
The second PRC possession was a 69-yard drive that ended with the Tigers defense stopping Holifield on fourth down at the 1-yard line with 11:26 in the second quarter.
That's when PRC defense started making plays, and lots of them. Senior defensive end Drake Whitfield made a crucial 8-yard tackle for a loss to stop the driving Tigers.
Later in the second quarter, senior defensive tackle Josh Neumann sacked Hattiesburg sophomore quarterback Dandre Humbles. Humbles then proceeded to get picked off by senior linebacker David Salser took the ball all the way down to the Hattiesburg 23-yard line with 4:15 left in the half. Salser's interception set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Roberts for his second of the half with 53 seconds left to play.
On the Tigers next possession sophomore corner Andy Banks picked off Humbles and ran it back 32 yards to the PRC 47-line. At the half PRC led 14-0.
Banks had his second pick of the day when he leapt into the air and grabbed an errant pass from Humbles with 8:49 left in the third quarter. Humbles had three interceptions on the night.
Banks' pick set up the PRC offense at their own 34-yard line. Junior quarterback Wyatt Davis led the offense on a 66-yard scoring drive capped off by Roberts' 6-yard touchdown with 4:04 in the third quarter.
Humbles had a 12-yard touchdown run with 2:39 in the third and then Hattiesburg recovered an onside kick, giving the home crowd life and the Tigers momentum.
That momentum was sucked out quickly as senior cornerback Matt Spence recovered a Hattiesburg fumble.
The PRC offense went back to work as Roberts scored his fourth and final touchdown of the night on a 1-yard carry with 11:56 in the fourth quarter.
Then it was the defenses' turn to shine as senior linebacker Steven Gallodoro hit the Tiger ball carrier so hard he lost his helmet during a 4-yard sack.
Holifield found the end zone on a 22-yard touchdown run with 8:08 to seal the game.
Collins was drenched in Gatorade after his squad hit him with a Gatorade shower to celebrate the victory.
"Man I am so proud of these guys and what they've accomplished. I'm proud of our community. It's just a good night tonight," Collins said.