We're building up to the 2019 NJCAA Football Championship on Dec. 5, which will pit No. 1 Gulf Coast against No. 2 Lackawanna in Pittsburg, Kansas. Today, we'll remember the first national championship at Perkinston back in 1948. This is from MGCCC Archivist Charles Sullivan's book "Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College: A History, 1911-2000."
Perkinston Junior College, coached by Marvin "Red" Campbell, won its first seven games, all conference games, by a combined score of 158-40. No team in that stretch scored more than a touchdown, and that stretch ended with a 19-0 shutout of Copiah-Lincoln.
The next game was homecoming, and archrival Pearl River visited the Old Athletic Field where the biggest crowd in the history of Perkinston crowded the bleachers and surrounded both end zones. The Bulldogs opened the scoring with a Davis Melton touchdown before the Wildcats ripped off 19 straight points. Nimrod Ellis scored from 3 yards out on the third play of the fourth quarter to make it 19-14 after Slayton Cole's second PAT.
A few minutes later the Bulldogs drove 49 yards to the Pearl River 1 before being stopped by a last-ditch Wildcat stand and a penalty, which put the ball in Pearl River's hands on the 7. As the Wildcats tried to fight out of the hole, a blocked punt turned over the ball at the 19-yard line. In the words of the Daily Herald reporter covering the game, "Holmes lost a yard, then dashed to the 11. He lost another yard and on fourth down gave a hand-off to Melton who propelled around right end for the touchdown that put the Bulldogs ahead." Perk won 20-19.
The Bulldogs beat the Tulane freshmen 34-20 in Pascagoula, then defeated Sunflower (now Mississippi Delta) 27-6 and East Central 26-7. In the finale at Perk, the crowd began singing "California, Here I Come" and school president A.L. May announced that feelers had been extended by officials from the Little Rose Bowl. In the end, the committee invited Duluth and Compton, likely because Perk couldn't raise the funds to travel to California.
Instead, Gulf Coast, which was ranked the nation's top team by the Williamson Football Rating Bureau, accepted an invitation to play in the Laurel Lions Bowl against Jones County. Perk beat the Bobcats for the second time that season 19-7 to close out the school's first unbeaten, untied season. Gulf Coast finished 12-0.
On December 11 in Pasadena, Compton defeated Duluth so handily that the game was scarcely a contest. On Dec. 15, 1948, Paul Williamson of the Williamson Football Rating Bureau sent President May a telegram naming Perkinston Junior College and Compton Junior College as co-champions of the nation for the year of 1948. Williamson released his picks for his All-American junior college squad later that month. Perk halfback Bobby Holmes made first team, and tackle Freddy Cruger made third team.
Pictured above: The 1948 Perkinston Junior College national championship team.
Pictured below: At homecoming November 6, 1948, late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down play, Davis Melton eludes a Wildcat tackle to carry the ball in for the touchdown that defeated Pearl River 20-19. Photograph courtesy of Davis Melton.