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South supremacy on line for Hinds, PRCC

Hinds Community College defenders D’Eldrick Taylor, left, and Lowan Baptiste, swarm Jones Community College returnman Brandon McDonald during the Eagles’ 27-7 win on Sept. 18. The fifth-ranked Eagles will host No. 4 Pearl River, both undefeated, in Raymond tonight at 7 p.m. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/30/04]Whenever Hinds Community College and Pearl River butt heads, it makes for a fan-friendly game.

During the regular season last year, Hinds defeated Pearl River 31-27 on a 95-yard kickoff return by Chris Humes, a former Vicksburg High star, with less than two minutes remaining. But the Wildcats got their revenge in the playoffs with a fourth-quarter comeback to win 21-17 and claim the state championship.

“That was a tough one to lose,” Pearl River coach Tim Hatten said of the regular-season defeat. “Who knows what might have happened if we’d won that one and wound up finishing the season as undefeated champions? But that’s all part of football and we’ll have our hands full again (tonight).”

No. 5 Hinds and No. 4 Pearl River square off for the first time this season tonight at 7 p.m. in Raymond. Both teams sport undefeated 4-0 records. They are both also 2-0 atop the MACJC South Division, making this game all the more important in the standings.

“There’s no doubt about it, it’s a big game for division play,” Hinds coach J. Mike Smith said. “We’re pretty evenly matched teams. It’s just going to get down to the little bitty things. But it is a big game, it’s a really big game.

“We’ll still be in the race, win or lose, but whoever wins this game kind of takes the driver’s seat.”

The key matchup for both teams will be Pearl River’s offense against Hinds’ defense.

The Wildcats’ high-flying attack ranks first in the state, averaging 468.3 yards and 44.5 points per game. Freshman quarterback Jimmy Oliver has thrown for 1,323 yards and 15 touchdowns in only four games.

Oliver has had several targets to choose from, including former Hattiesburg High stars Josh Barnes and James Hollingsworth, who lead the state in receiving yards at 348 and 321, respectively. Larry Brackins, who finished second in the state in receiving yards last season, has 281 yards on 12 catches this year.

“They don’t run the ball a whole bunch, they’re going to air it out,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a test for our guys on defense.”

The Eagles’ defense has a tough task, but they’re quite capable.

Hinds’ defense is paced by the front four, led by Kentrel Tanner (19 tackles, six sacks) and Chad Green (28 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks).

Hinds leads the state in total defense, allowing a measly 129.5 yards and 12 points per game. Pearl River averages 344.8 yards passing, but Hinds has allowed only 358 passing yards total in four games, so something has to give.

“They will be the best team we’ve faced thus far, and I feel that we’re the best team they’ve faced so far,” Hatten said. “We’re going to be huge tests for each other. The No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense in our league.”