Pearl River football sends eight Wildcats to next level
POPLARVILLE – Pearl River’s football fieldhouse was bustling Wednesday as eight Wildcats signed with four-year schools during the first day of the early signing period.
Tight end Donavon Hickman (Union) signed with Louisiana-Monroe; linebacker Cory Jackson (Jackson; Madison-Ridgeland Academy) signed with Old Dominion; defensive lineman Gi’Narious Johnson (Gulfport) signed with South Alabama; offensive lineman Donald Kinchen (Oak Grove) signed with Mississippi College; defensive linemen Jaeden Ridgeway (Pascagoula) and Josh Smith (New Orleans; Landry Walker) signed with Southeastern Louisiana; offensive lineman Ivory Scott (Kenner, La.; Bonnabel) signed with Arkansas State; and running back Ron Thompson (Bassfield) signed with North Alabama. Several more Wildcats are expected to join their teammates and sign at the next level.
Hickman, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound sophomore from Union is yet another success story on the Wildcats. The converted tight end caught 10 passes for 71 yards, including a crucial touchdown in PRCC’s win at MDCC.
“Donavon came here as a linebacker and we transitioned him over to tight end,” PRCC coach Ted Egger said. “He bought into that and we sold him that with his body type if he worked hard he would get an opportunity like this and he did. He worked really hard to be in this position. His upside is unbelievable.”
Jackson was one of the defensive leaders for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound linebacker recorded 34 tackles with 2.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles, one interception and four pass breakups. He finished his two-year career in Poplarville with 72 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 13.5 TFLs, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and four pass breakups.
“It’s exciting for Cory. He didn’t have any offers out of high school. He came here and was a two-year starter, played every snap, bought into the program and added on weight. He has unbelievable upside,” Egger said. “He’s long, athletic, can run and is smart. Old Dominion is getting a great player and person. I’m excited to see what Cory does.”
Johnson quickly commanded playing time in the middle of PRCC’s defensive line. The 6-foot-1, 280-pound freshman had a breakout performance in his collegiate debut against Itawamba, recording nine tackles, a TFL, forced fumble and two pass breakups. He ended up among the team’s leaders with 46 tackles despite playing as a nose guard. The All-MACJC Second Team selection also collected half a sack, 3.5 TFLs, one forced fumble and three pass breakups.
“South Alabama is getting a difference maker,” Egger said. “Somebody missed on that kid because that kid is special. He’s a special all around person. He does everything on and off the field to the fullest extent. He’s an all-the-time guy.”
Kinchen helped to form a reliable offensive line for the Wildcats. The 6-foot, 280-pound sophomore was solid in both pass protection and run blocking in 2018.
“Donald is a great kid who works hard and found his way onto the field because of his desire and work ethic,” Egger said.
Ridgeway played an important role along the defensive line. As a true freshman, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end racked up 16 tackles with one sack, two TFLs and a forced fumble.
“He knew what he wanted to do. He came here with the goal of getting a scholarship as a freshman and did that,” Egger said. “They’re getting a solid kid. He works hard and takes care of business in the classroom. He has all the physical attributes. He’s 100 miles all the time and gets after it.”
Scott entered the season tabbed as one of the MACJC’s top offensive linemen and lived up to the expectations, earning all-league honors. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Scott was a reliable presence along the offensive line for PRCC and helped pave the way for one of the school’s all-time leading rushers in Thompson.
“Ivory is another one who came in and has been a two-year starter. He’s really fought through a lot of things and put himself in a position to finish,” Egger said. “Arkansas State is getting a guy who can play anywhere along the O-line. He’s versatile, athletic and physically tough. He should come in and give them stability along the line.” According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Scott is a three-star recruit and the number eight offensive guard prospect in the country.
Smith helped form an imposing defensive line in his lone season at PRCC. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound freshman recorded 18 tackles with one sack, 3.5 tackles for loss and a 16-yard scoop-and-score. Smith had a career-high six total tackles against East Central and in the season finale against Delta, Smith racked up three tackles, one sack and two TFLs.
“Josh came in like Jaeden and had a goal in mind of signing with a D-1 school. He came in, worked hard and earned that opportunity,” Egger said. “Southeastern Louisiana is getting a great player who will be very successful for them.”
Thompson rushed into PRCC’s all-time ledger as one of the most productive backs to come through Poplarville. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Bassfield product rushed for a career-high 214 yards in the season opener and eclipsed 178 yards in another game to finish 2018 among the country’s leading rushers with 913 yards. He also rushed for five touchdowns and ended his two-year PRCC career 1,396 yards and six touchdowns. Both Thompson’s single-season and career totals are sixth in Pearl River’s prestigious history. In addition to rushing the ball, Thompson caught 22 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns during his JUCO career.
“In my opinion, Ron was the best running back in this league. Ron is a workhorse. You could give him the ball as many times as you need to and he’s going to gain positive yards,” Egger said. “He’s physical, he’s tough, he’s fast and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can do everything. They’re getting a complete player. They’re getting a difference maker.”
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