Patrick Magee

PRC playing well in honor of fallen teammate

Shane Smith
Shane Smith

Friday's night's slate of high school football games on the Coast provided all the drama and emotion you could imagine, but none likely compared to senior night at Pearl River Central.

You had the excitement of Brad Wall's late 45-yard field goal to lift No. 1 Ocean Springs to a 31-29 win over rival No. 3 St. Martin.

At Picayune, you had Long Beach's shocking 36-34 win over the No. 9 Maroon Tide in overtime to improve to 2-8.

After PRC's 17-7 win over Pascagoula, you saw uncommon emotion from the Blue Devils on senior night. While other teams on the Coast have dealt with the usual ups and downs that come with a football season, the Blue Devils are still dealing with a tragedy - the death of one of their teammates, sophomore Shane Smith.

Some PRC players fought back tears as they walked across the field for the post-game handshake with Pascagoula.

Smith, who would likely be starting on this year's team, died on July 24 in an automobile accident near Purvis.

The Blue Devils have done all they can to honor their teammate who wore No. 15, and that includes playing with a passion on the field. PRC is 8-1 and 5-0 to sit atop the Region 4-5A standings.

Smith's locker is cordoned off as a shrine and the 15 yard lines on both sides of the field are painted in pink and blue.

"He'll always stay close to our heart," PRC coach Eric Collins said. "His dad was sitting right over there tonight. His dad is our biggest fan. I know Shane would like to be playing, but he had the best seat in the house. I know he's proud of us. Maybe he can recommend all of us to the Father when the time comes."

That faith has been a key component of the PRC season with the Blue Devils playing for each other and a higher cause.

"The glory goes to the Lord," Collins said. "That's the crux our program, giving Christ the glory."

Pearl River Central didn't enter the season labeled one of the most talented teams in South Mississippi, but the Blue Devils are playing as a tight knit group with two road games remaining on the regular season schedule - Hattiesburg and Picayune.

"These guys are so close and they've been together for a long, long time," Collins said. "This senior group started with me in the ninth grade. They've been doing the same thing over and over again. (The Pascagoula win) is big for our program. I can't say enough about our kids. I'm proud of them."

Seniors like running back Christian Roberts, linebacker David Salser, safety Dalton Howe and linebacker Steven Gallodoro all played outstanding games Friday night for PRC.

The Blue Devils entered Friday ranked No. 5 in the Sun Herald Top 10 and will surely take a step forward after beating No. 4 Pascagoula.

Some wondered how PRC would respond against another top five team, but it passed the test with flying colors.

"We made a statement to the whole state that we're coming this year," Gallodoro said.

Contact Patrick Magee at pmagee@sunherald.com and follow him@CoastCoverage.

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