Larry Dolan’s mind wandered a bit Thursday night.
He couldn’t help it.
Usually zeroed in on kickoff, which was rapidly approaching, Dolan’s thoughts drifted.
He hadn’t really told anybody, but Pearl River Central’s opener at Forrest County AHS had been on his mind since he was hired in April.
He’d tried to block it out, but the memories flooded back.
“The kids knew it was a big game for me. My name is on the field house, so they all said, ‘Hey, Coach, your name is on the field house,’ ” Dolan said Friday morning after PRC’s 34-29 victory at FCAHS. “I used to be a big deal somewhere, but now I’m just another guy.”
Dolan knew what to expect — but then again not really.
A 1983 graduate of FCAHS, Dolan led the football program from 1990 to 2014. He left for two years to coach Columbia Academy and made his return Thursday.
“It was (weird). I was sitting in the locker room before the game and thought, ‘That’s where I dressed when I was a 10th-grader,’ ” he said. “I looked at some of the walls, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, that’s the coat of paint I put on.’ Everything from cutting the field ... when you stay somewhere for half your life, you have so many memories there.”
Dolan did a good job of keeping his emotions in check for most of the night, but after the narrow victory he choked up while being interviewed.
“I’m an emotional guy. Just being there, I was looking at my new team and I had my old team in the background,” he said. “My family was there and we’ve been in maroon for 30 years and now we all have blue on. Maybe just the relief of the whole thing being over with.
“I held it together pretty good until that point. I was thinking, ‘Man, quit asking questions and let me get out of this interview.’ That’s just me. I can’t hardly apologize for it. That’s just me.”
From early in the first quarter, PRC fans had plenty to cheer about. Seth Orgeron opened the game with a long rumble return for a touchdown. FCAHS opened up the offense a bit after the scoop’n’score and turned the game into more of a shootout than Dolan was hoping for. WIth PRC clinging to the 5-point lead late in the fourth quarter, however, Orgeron came up with a big interception to secure the homecoming victory.
“That was my concern — that we would frustrate them and then they’d just throw it deep,” he said. “The pace of the game was not one that I wanted to be in at this point in the season. Later on, when it gets cooled off and we can spread it out and throw it around, let’s go for it. Not Game 1.
“It was like a track meet and I don’t like track meets on Friday — or Thursday — nights.”
Asked why he left FCAHS, Dolan said it was just time to try something different. He spent two seasons at Columbia Academy, then Eric Collins opted to leave PRC for D’Iberville.
“There is nowhere else I would have came out of retirement for than Pearl River Central,” Dolan said. “I don’t fit in at some of the big-time schools and some of those communities. This is the kind of community I fit in with. I’m not one of these politicians who is going to go out and shake a bunch of hands and kiss babies.
“I do better with the working-class folks. I understand I have weaknesses and strengths as a coach. My weakness is probably getting out there and politicking. My strength is dealing with the kids. It’s just a good fit for me.
“I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else at this point in my career than Pearl River Central.”
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