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Co-Lin hosts Pearl River for state championship

WESSON — There is no love lost when the Co-Lin Wolves play thePearl River Wildcats in any sport. On the flip side, head coachesGlenn Davis of Co-Lin and Tim Hatten of Pearl River don’t hesitatelavishing praise on their opponents.

The two football powers collide Saturday night in Co-Lin’s StoneStadium for the MACJC State Championship. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

“We know Pearl River (9-1) is a good football team,” said Davis.”We respect them. We know we will have to play well. Hopefully, wewill do our best.”

Hatten, whose Wildcats are 3-time defending state champions,lost a 31-21 decision at Co-Lin back on Sept. 21. He praised theWolfpack.

“We weren’t ready to play and they (Co-Lin) were in that one,”said Hatten. “They kicked us around pretty good. We just couldn’tget things in sync.”

Pearl River was coming off a hard-fought 36-22 South Divisionwin over Gulf Coast when the Wildcats were ambushed. They respondedby winning their next 6 games, beating North Division championNorthwest 31-21 at Senatobia last Saturday.

Co-Lin (8-2) stumbled at Gulf Coast, losing 34-10, but recoveredand won the South title in a tie-breaker with Pearl River as bothteams went 5-1 in the division. The Wolfpack whipped Itawamba 38-10in a revenge match last Saturday, in the opening round of the stateplayoffs.

“Our kids have played hard and our coaches have done a great jobpreparing for the games this year,” said Davis. In the previous twoseasons, Co-Lin had managed just 1 win each year.

Davis said Pearl River has multiple weapons on offense, led byquarterback Carlton Hill, a South Florida transfer. Running backSeth Hayden had his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the year againstNorthwest with 105 yards on 22 carries.

The Wildcats spread it out and throw it all over the field. Theyseem to be running the ball more than they have in the past.

“They have some great athletes on offense,” said Davis. “Theirskill guys are very athletic. We will have to be goodtacklers.”

Davis said the Pack must establish a rushing game tomorrownight. “For us to win, We must be able to run the football.

“Pearl River is athletic on defense. We will have to put acomplete game together. We can’t turn the ball over and we have tocome up with some takeaways.”

Running back Aaron Johns has come on strong for Co-Lin in thesecond half of the campaign. He gained 180 yards against PearlRiver. For the season, Johns has 714 yards and 6 TDs.

Co-Lin sophomore quarterback Cedric Johnson had a 3-touchdownperformance against Itawamba. On the season, Johnson has passed for1,269 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“Cedric played well for us against Itawamba,” said Davis. “Hemade some throws and made some plays with his feet.”

Co-Lin wide receiver Damoyn Carroll accounted for 2 TDs in thewin over Itawamba, catching a TD pass and scoring on a reverse.

Placekicker Nick Gunter has made 25 of 28 extra points and is7-for-7 in field goal attempts. Gunter kicked a 32-yard field goalagainst Itawamba.

Defensively, Co-Lin has made a strong showing in turnovermargin. The Pack forced 29 turnovers which ranked second in theconference. They only have committed 16 turnovers, giving them aplus-13 margin, second to Pearl River.

Sophomore defensive tackle Jesse Bowman is a leader on Co-Lin’sdefense, accounting for 61 tackles. End Raven Gray has 10quarterback sacks. Linebacker Michael Bibbs has 50 tackles.

Pearl River was the preseason favorite to win the NJCAA nationalchampionship. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 2, behindunbeaten Blinn, Texas. Co-Lin is ranked No. 8.

Wolf Tails: Co-Lin’s last state championshipcame in 1985, when the Wolves defeated Gulf Coast at War MemorialStadium in Pascagoula. It was Coach Ray Ishee’s first year at theCo-Lin helm.