POPLARVILLE, MS (WDAM) - For a second consecutive year, Pearl River Community College will usher in a new football season with a new head coach at the helm.
Coach Ted Egger will make his debut at 6 p.m. Thursday when the Wildcats welcome Northeast Mississippi Community College into Dobie Holden Stadium.
"We're starting to come together as a team," said Egger, who was promoted in June from defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach to head coach. "That's the most important thing. We're starting to play for each other."
PRCC is looking to improve on consecutive 2-7 seasons. Northeast was 6-3 last year, but missed out on a spot in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges playoffs after a 3-3 finish in the North Division.
"We're looking to play fast and play physical," Egger said. "We're just going to take care of this first game. I'm not really worried about anything but our football team and what we can control.
"If we do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."
The Wildcats will be inexperienced at the skill positions, but Egger said he's liked what's seen during preseason work.
Kent State University transfer quarterback Justin Agner (Woodstock, Ga.) earned the starting job under center.
After the graduation of 1,000-yard rusher Darious Leggett (Forrest County AHS), three true freshmen —Ron Thompson (Bassfield High School), Chandler Roberts (Kemper County High School) and Jesse Pernell (Poplarville High School) —are expected to share the rushing load with redshirt freshman Caleb Batie (West Marion High School).
"It's going to be running back by committee," Egger said. "We like what each of them brings to the table."
PRCC's receivers also will be green, but Egger said freshman Christian Williamson (North Forrest High School) and redshirt sophomore Malcolm Staten (Hancock High School) have had standout preseasons.
The Wildcats' defense is studded with veterans, especially a defensive backfield anchored by sophomores Zhaunte McElroy (Forrest County AHS) and Daylon Burks (Lumberton High School).
PRCC welcomes back a pair of starting linebackers, sophomores Chase Crosby (Harrison Central High School) and David Salser (Pearl River Center High School), and two more sophomores up front in Sigmund Lewis (Hattiesburg High School) and Devonta Brown (Broad Street High School).
"We've got some veteran leaders on that side of the ball," Egger said. "They're bringing the young guys along with them."
The kicking duties will fall to returning sophomore Mark Johnson (Bay High School), who made 24 of 25 extra points in 2016 and averaged 47.7 yards a punt.
PRCC owns a 30-5 record against Northeast even though the Tigers won the 2016 season opener in Booneville.
The game can be heard on WRJW-AM (1320)/Picayune and WFFF-FM (96.7)/Columbia. The game will be livestreamed on prccmedia.com and youtube.com/pearlrivercollege.