This time is now at stop number 24 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where the stars have seemingly aligned for Pearl River Central.
However, it’s up to the Blue Devils to keep them in alignment on the brink of what should be their best season in at least five years.
Head Coach Jacob Owen said, “Well, I feel like our kids – they deserve to believe in themselves. They deserve to be confident in their ability to be a great team this year. I don’t think that’s something that they or me need to apologize for.” Sorry, not sorry is a mentality built over the course of four straight losing seasons, the last two coming under the watch of Head Coach Jacob Owen, following Pearl River Central’s last region 4 class 5A title back in 2015. “No disrespect to the previous two teams I’ve coached here. Year 1, we were 4-7. Year 2, we were 3-8. We play in a tough region. It’s a monster. But I feel like we have worked and put ourselves in a position now to be a monster as well.”
Two of PRC’s three wins last season were actually against playoff teams, but that wasn’t enough to get the Blue Devils back into the playoffs themselves, extending their post-season drought to four years. Linebacker Brady Johnson said, “That feeling was so bad, just after every game, just felt terrible. I felt sick to my stomach not being able to do what I wanted to do out there, but this year we’re turning stuff around.”
Offensive Guard Carson Cunningham said, “We had a dog mentality all off-season. We wanted to come back after a 3-8 season. We wanted to go far. We still want to go far. We beat Bay High in our jamboree game, and we want to keep that same mentality all the way through.”
Bay High was actually one of the most improved teams on the Coast in 2019, but now it’s the Blue Devils that appear to be even more improved. Between JV and varsity they shutout the Tigers a combined 32-0 on Friday, setting the stage for something brand new in 2020. “Yeah, it was different. It was everyone – you could feel we wanted to be there and we wanted to go hit somebody.”
“I told them before the game that I felt like the art of competition was something that we had learned. We had learned how to compete. What we were still struggling with was having fun while doing it. Competing to winners is fun, and I saw that I believe last Friday night in our scrimmage.”
Without putting too much stock in one pre-season game, the Blue Devils have other reasons for optimism. Staring on defense with seven of eight returning starters and then on offense with the return of four year starting Quarterback Cameron Brunson. Not to mention this year’s class of 22 seniors being the largest in the Jacob Owen era. “Yeah, I checked MaxPreps and we’re like 98th in the state of Mississippi and that ain’t right. That’s going to change.”
“We’re trying to go get a ring. We’re trying to go all the way, and if you ain’t first you’re last.”
Still less than a decade removed from the program’s back-to-back south state championship game appearances in 2011 and 2012, first is certainly a possible outcome at PRC in this dog eat dog world. “To be the dog, you’ve got to beat the dog.”
“If you want to be the dog, you’ve got to beat the dog.”
“It’s time. The time for patience is over with. The time for understanding and being okay with making mistakes is over with. You’ve got to be perfect. And if that’s what you’ve got to be, that’s what you’ve better be.”
PRC lost its original August 21st home game against Hancock as well as road games at Poplarville and Lawrence County on August 28th and September 4th.
Instead, this Friday’s season opener is now set for 7 p.m. at Sumrall.