POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River’s 2-1 defeat to rival Jones College on Friday at the PRCC Sports Complex led to both good and bad news.
The bad: PRCC’s men fell to JC (10-4 overall, 6-2 MACJC South) for the first time since 2016.
The good: Because of tiebreakers, Pearl River (8-2-1, 6-1) clinched its second straight MACJC South Division title and earned a first-round bye in next week’s MACJC Playoffs.
“I expected us to have a higher level of intensity,” Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. “From the start of the game it was nonstop mistakes at the back. I thought they did a better job of being organized and played better this time.
“Especially considering what this game meant, it was really disappointing to see the level of our boys. It just wasn’t there.”
Pearl River sophomore Kealan Baggett attempts to win a ball from a Jones College player during Friday’s 2-1 loss at the PRCC Sports Complex. (BRETT RUSS/PRCC ATHLETICS)
The game was physical early on as both teams made runs at the opponent. JC came out as the aggressor, needing to claim a lopsided victory to knock PRCC from atop the division standings.
JC’s Chris Dempsey helped set the tone for the visitors. He almost gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute as JC jumped on a giveaway but the striker pushed the ball wide to the right.
John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) made a diving save from point-blank range in the box five minutes later on Dempsey to keep the game scoreless. One minute before the end of the half, the Bobcats setup for a free kick near PRCC’s goal box. Jones sent a low skipping shot through a crowd and Bowman pounced on the ball to send the two teams into the half tied 0-0.
Jones was once again the aggressor coming out of the break but it was PRCC who broke through first.
Miguel Hernandez (Gulfport) was all over a retreating Jones defender who sent a pass back to his keeper. Unable to pick the ball up, the keeper was put in a tough spot and with Hernandez charging on the ball with a yawning goal only a few feet away the keeper pulled down PRCC’s freshman forward in the box.
The Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick and Ethan Hodby (Leicester City, England) calmly placed the ball in the lower right corner for a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
Jones scored the game-tying goal in the 58th minute and then went ahead for good in the 85th minute to claim the 2-1 victory.
The defeat marked the first time since a 1-0 victory over Meridian on Aug. 30 that the Wildcats have been held to one goal.
Bowman was credited with seven saves in the match and allowed two goals for only the second time this season.
Although PRCC ultimately clinched the South on Friday, Gallant hopes the loss serves as a wakeup call.
“We have one game left. Everything should be ‘game by game,’ but I don’t think we’ve been looking at this ‘game by game,’” Gallant said. “We’ve been looking at the bigger picture and that will need to change.”
Pearl River dominates Southwest (Saturday)
SUMMIT, Miss. — The Pearl River men's soccer team finished the regular season strong defeating the Southwest Bears 6-0 Saturday.
The win completed the season sweep for the Wildcats (9-2-1 overall, 9-1-1 MACJC) over Southwest.
"We did well. We played everyone we wanted to," head coach Drew Gallant said.
"We got to play a lot of people and that helps with depth. It was nice to just go out and get a dominant win like that on the road."
Jonovan Cucurullo (Waveland; Bay) got the scoring started for the Wildcats in the 16th minute.
Tres Ray (Poplarville) followed that up with a goal of his own in the 11th minute to give the Wildcats the 2-0 lead over the Bears (2-11-1, 0-8)
Miguel Hernandez (Gulfport) scored one last goal right before halftime in the 43rd minute to extend the Wildcat lead to three.
Ray scored his second goal of the night in the 70th minute to make it a 4-0 game.
Matthan Bourgeois (Picayune; Hancock) scored a goal in the 78th minute to extend the lead to 5-0.
Sam Buras (Diamondhead; Hancock) scored the last goal of the game in 80th minute to make it 6-0.
The Wildcats will now receive a first round bye in the MACJC State playoffs and play in the semifinal round next Saturday.