News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Pearl River Central Blue Devils

It’s about that time at stop number 15 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where the Pearl River Central Blue Devils sound ready to show off their brand-new attitude at the start of a brand-new season.

“Football season is an exciting time of year. The grass smells better. Pep rallies. Kids walking the hallways in their jerseys. I’m excited for that.”

Defensive end/full back B.J. Bellelo said, “Everybody’s asking, man, how are y’all going to be this year? What’s it feeling like? Everybody is just ready. The cheerleaders are ready for the games. Everybody is ready to go watch. Ain’t nothing like Friday night lights.”

The countdown is on in Carriere which tends to happen as Baddest Devil Week comes to a close. This year, two-way senior B.J. Bellelo is top dog in the weight room, earning him the honor of wearing a ‘C’ patch on his jersey. “As a program it means a lot because we get our name put up on the wall. The Top 10 does. And then your Baddest Devil, they get to be a team captain. So, it just holds you to a higher standpoint, I guess you could say, because you are a guaranteed captain, so it means something to you. You’ve got to be the leader. You’ve got to be that guy.”

Leadership certainly important to a relatively young Pearl River Central team, returning just six starters in 2022, three on each side of the ball to go along with 14 seniors. “We have 63 kids on our roster, and I think close to 30 of them are sophomores.”

The Blue Devils even rolling with freshman Quarterback Qorday Russell armed with 78 percent of the team’s rushing yards back from last year as the Wing-T General. Head Coach Jacob Owen said, “You’ve got to kick him out of the weight room. You’ve got to kick him off the field. He just loves being here. He loves working hard, and he’s pretty good at perfecting his craft.”

That attitude is seemingly contagious for PRC this offseason on the back of a 2021 campaign that saw the Blue Devils finish with an overall record of just 2-7 and a district mark of 2-5. They averaged 51 points in their two wins over Long Beach and West Harrison, but otherwise struggled to find their footing throughout the rest of the Region 4 Class 5A gauntlet. “You know the district we play in and it’s not for babies for sure. We feel like we’ve been on the fringe for four years. We’ve either been a win or two away. We’ve played a lot of people close last year for three quarters, and would end up getting beat in the fourth quarter, mainly because we didn’t play but about 16 football players on offense and defense.”

Wide receiver/ cornerback Preston Williamson said, “Definitely just playing a full game and not losing hope when one thing goes bad. It’s a lot of just adversity we need to fight through because there’s going to be a bunch of it in a football game and then just life in general.”

“The attitudes were the worst part. We had really bad attitudes last year. Like we started off and we shouldn’t have lost those first couple of games. But once that happened, they were like, we couldn’t beat this team, so we don’t have a shot against them or whoever, so bad attitudes were a big thing that we’ve been struggling with the past couple years, so that’s a good thing we fixed.”

The Blue Devils are still in search of their first winning season, playoff appearance, playoff win, and district title since 2015.

Still relying on their six core values: passion, resilience, commitment, love your brother, be tough always, and work hard daily in order to flip the switch. “We looked at our record and said we’re a lot better football team than our record would suggest. And we still believe that, and we really hope to change that this year.”

“We want to see a better record. We want to see district. We want to see playoffs. We want to see state titles. That’s the main thing is just, what can we do to be different from the rest of them?”

“Every senior class, they tell me, Coach, I want to be the senior class that wins the most games for you. And I don’t want them to do it for me. I want them to do it for them, just to experience that. But they want to win more football games than the last one, so that’s their goal.”

The Blue Devils kick off their season at home on August 26th against the Hancock Hawks.

If you find yourself out west for a game this season, Coach Owen recommends Slim’s Soda and Sandwich Shop of McNeil or Jack’s Fish House if you need a good meal. His favorite all-time player is Doug Flutie and his favorite championship moment is the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.

Categories: 25 in 25