No. 10 Pearl River men ready to make ’21 debut

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, September 2, 2021

“Unique” is the best word to describe the relocated 2021 spring Pearl River men’s soccer season. Under the guidance of head coach Drew Gallant, however, the Wildcats once again proved to be one of the top teams in the MACCC.

Pearl River finished the season with a 12-4 record and fell just short in the MACCC/Region 23 Championship match. Back to their traditional fall schedule, Gallant’s group is looking to build off of last season’s success.

“Our guys are going to play really hard,” Gallant said. “They’re doing what is asked of them. They’re all really good players. They have a lot of potential this season. We hope to build on last year.”

Because of the shortened offseason, Gallant wanted his team to take some time to relax and recover.

“We wanted our guys to relax this summer, so we didn’t give them anything to do,” he said. “Some of them played, but we advised them to take some time off. The returners needed a mental break. With the freshman, it’s a little bit different because they had a lot more time off.”

Gallant feels confident in his roster as the Wildcats enter the 2021 fall season.

“I have a super good group of guys this year,” he said. “They’re going to play really hard, and they’ve done everything that we’ve asked of them. This group has a lot of potential this season.”

The Wildcats should have plenty of experienced players on the field this season as they return 12 players from last season’s roster.

“A lot of the guys we are bringing back are starters from last season, so I am expecting a lot of them this season,” Gallant said. “I know that they were disappointed with themselves and the numbers that they put up, so I am expecting bigger things of them. They are expecting bigger things of themselves which really sets a mark for the incoming players.”

The Wildcats will base out of the 4-3-3, but the team’s versatility will allow them to be fluid with formations.

After having several matches postponed, the Wildcats will finally make their much anticipated fall ’21 debut Thursday night at Division I power LSU-Eunice. The match will be streamed at athletics.lsue.edu/watch. Kickoff against the No. 5 Bengals is set for 7:30 p.m.

ATTACK
Leading the way in the attack is returner Mohamed Diallo (Gulfport).

Diallo finished last season with seven goals and four assists, earning an All-Region selection in the process.

Newcomers who will help the group of attackers are Peyton Ladner (Gulfport), Jason Irias (D’Iberville), Harper Baggett (Ocean Springs) and Joel Morales (Gulfport).

Ladner and Morales helped lead Gulfport to an 18-3-1 season as seniors.

Baggett scored 30 goals and assisted on 12 in his Ocean Springs career.

Irias scored 20 goals and assisted on 10 as a senior at D’Iberville.

MIDFIELD
Returning in the midfield are several impact players including Ryley Smith (Manchester, England.; Castlebrook), Andre Nicholson (Kingston, Jamaica.; Clarendon College), Samuel Lambert (Picayune; Pearl River Central), Bradley Stines (Poplarville), Alex Emery (Gulfport; West Harrison), Graham Rodney (Sumrall) will return to anchor the midfield.

Nicholson led the Wildcats in scoring as a freshman finishing the season with nine goals and two assists. His performance earned All-Region and All-MACCC South selections.

Smith was instrumental in helping the Wildcat attack develop, finishing with 10 assists and four goals last season.

Lambert scored once and assisted on four goals.

Stines played in 11 games and started two last season. He assisted on one goal.

Emery played in six games last season before suffering an injury. He scored three goals and assisted on another.

Rodney did not play last season.

Newcomers who will be valuable in the midfield include Julio Cezar (Curitiba, Brazil), Bryan Maradiaga (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Austin Schruff (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus).

Maradiaga scored 10 goals and assisted on six as a senior at West Harrison.

Schruff led St. Stanislaus to a 4A State Championship as a senior.

DEFENSE
Returning along the back of the formation are standouts Jamie Chamberland (London, England.; Dover Athletic Academy), Brandon Elkins (Bay St. Louis; St. Stanislaus), Durron Myers (Gulfport) and Dustin Cuevas (Picayune; Hancock).

Chamberlain chipped in four goals and one assist last season. In just six games, Emery scored three goals and assisted on another before an injury forced him to miss the rest of the season.

Myers picked up a goal and two assists. Elkins was a lockdown defender for the Wildcats, playing in 14 games.

Cuevas chipped in four goals and one assist last year. He will spend time at defense but Gallant expects him to be a versatile player for the Wildcats.

Newcomers in defense include William Carey transfer Gavin Taylor (Jacksonville, Fla.; Gulfport), Seck Fofana (Gulfport), Solomon Naylor (Madison; Germantown), Ivo Jiminez (Atlanta, Ga.; Gulfport) and Carter Wilson (Gulfport).

Taylor was a valuable defender for the Crusaders last season.

Fofana, Wilson and Jiminez were important members of the Gulfport backline last season.

Naylor was a mainstay in the Germantown lineup.

GOALKEEPER
Between the posts for the Wildcats will be William Carey transfer Maddux Francis (Poplarville) and Sebastion Fausett (Kiln; Hancock).

Fausett played in one game last season, making one save.

Francis did not play for the Crusaders last season, but Gallant expects him to be a valuable player for the Wildcats.

RANKING
After earning a NJCAA preseason ranking of No. 13, the Wildcats have moved to No. 10 ahead of their season opener.

HOW TO WATCH
The Wildcats will once again livestream all matches for free at PRCCMedia.com. Fans who have Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV devices can also watch the Wildcat broadcasts by downloading the “Pearl River CC” channel from their app stores.

For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).