PERKINSTON — No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast's defense turned in another dominant performance, and the Bulldogs offense exploded in the third quarter to post a 25-3 win over archrival Pearl River on Thursday at A.L. May Memorial Stadium.
"It was ugly," Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. "I thought we played well. Looking at the numbers, we played a little better than I thought. The story of the night tonight was Pearl River giving their absolute best. We got their best shot. Even an ugly win in that scenario is something to be proud of."
The Wildcats managed only 103 total yards and made only four first downs against the nation's second-ranked defense. Gulf Coast piled up 511 total yards and made enough big plays to cover up some deficiencies in the red zone.
The Bulldogs stayed perfect through eight games to extend their winning streak to 12 games. They are 5-0 in the MACJC South and face a winner-take-all showdown at No. 6 Hinds next Thursday at Raymond. A win would mean a 16th South Division title and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Gulf Coast kept its first-quarter shutout streak for the season intact and got a 42-yard strike from Chance Lovertich (So., Jackson Prep/Brandon) to Jymetre Hester (Fr., Glades Central/Belle Glade Fla.) to take a 6-0 lead.
Pearl River (2-6, 1-5) cut its deficit in half at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter on a 39-yard field goal, but on the next play from scrimmage, Gulf Coast seized control of the game. Deondre House (Fr., Senatobia/Senatobia) broke free for a 67-yard touchdown dash to make it 12-3.
Three plays later, Diwun Black (Fr., Forest/Forest) made it 19-3 when he stepped in front of a Pearl River pass and returned it for a 30-yard pick-six with 8:52 left in the quarter.
"We've got some explosive players," Wright said. "We've got a couple of guys on offense that if they get a little bit of space, they're dangerous. I think Deondre really made his point tonight that way. Diwun Black is as explosive a defensive player as there is in the country. He made a break on an out-cut, got underneath it and scored."
The two touchdowns in 61 seconds broke the game open. House had a 34-yard run on the next drive which helped set up the last scoring play. Lovertich pulled down a bootleg, put a spin move on a Wildcat and bounced in from 6 yards with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
Half of Pearl River's first downs came via Gulf Coast penalties. The Wildcats managed one first down rushing and one passing. Nearly two-thirds of their yardage came on a 61-yard pass play, but that play ended with the Bulldogs forcing and recovering a fumble.
"In this day and age of college football, to give up 100 yards, that's almost unheard of," Wright said. Teams are in spreads, and quarterbacks are capable of doing what they're doing. That's a spectacular night."
The Bulldogs ran for 271 yards behind a stellar 10-rush, 138-yard night by House. Lovertich completed 21 of 27 passes for 240 yards, with Hester hauling in five catches for 96 yards.
It sets up a monumental showdown against Hinds in a week.
"It's a big game," Wright said. "That's what the MACJC South is all about. We feel like we've had three or four games where we felt like we were playing for all the marbles. I think we'll have a great week of practice. The kids know we have a target on our backs. From this week on, it starts playoff football."
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