• John Macon Gillespie

Jacob Owen Returning Home to PRC

In 2015 the Pearl River Central football program won their first division championship in 20 years. It marked their fourth trip to the playoffs in a span of five years.

But Eric Collins and his wing-t offense left town and so did the success. Now, after two down seasons the community is hoping its football program can regain that 2015 form under one of their own.

Jacob Owen, a PRC graduate as well as former assistant coach, is coming back home to guide the Blue Devils as the head football coach. After helping build Poplarville into a perennial 4A contender, he is bringing his own version of the wing-t offense to Carriere. For the 34-year old, who also spent time as an assistant at New Hope prior to being the offensive coordinator at Poplarville, it’s a humbling career move.

“It means the world to me,” Owen told SES Mississippi. “I relate very well to those kids there, because I was once one of those kids.

“We’re not always going to have the most talented roster, but we’ve got good kids, and we’ve got kids that are going to show up and we’ve got kids that are going to work hard every single day. And they’re coachable.”

Last season’s 1-10 finish means the program is a long way from where it wants to be. That isn’t lost on Owen, but neither is the support he and his players have received this spring.

“There’s just a lot of people that want to help and a lot of people that want to see us be successful,” he explained. “I’ve received tremendous support from people in the community and people who graduated from there that just want to help. Everybody wants to help turn it around, because they want a competitive product put on the field.

“We want to put a team on the field the community can be proud of. It’s a process. We can’t be outcome oriented. We’ve got to focus on the process and what it takes to be successful.”

Part of that process will be implementing a wing-t offense that Owen has spent years shaping. That formation was the key ingredient in past recent success for the Devils. As well, Owen reached a state championship game and 4A south state final in consecutive seasons at Poplarville with it.

After molding his principals under Hornets’ head coach Jay Beech, Owen feels he’s ready to marry his schemes with the max effort he knows he’ll get from his players at PRC. However, he will also marry that commitment from his players with a commitment of his own, to the program.

“I think that went a long way in me getting this job, me knowing the wing-t system,” Owen said. “I think they also wanted stability.

“They wanted somebody that was going to come here and build. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re building every day. We’re trying to get a little bit better every day. We’ve made a lot of progress this spring. We’re not close to where we need to be, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction offensively and defensively.”

Stable and steady would be a good way to describe Owen as a coach. At 14 years old, he decided he not only wanted to coach but that he wanted to be a head coach some day.

At that time, and through his high school days, Owen was a undersized player with an oversized motor. At 5’9 and less than 200 pounds he played in the middle of the defensive line as a junior. Then his senior season he took over at quarterback.

“If I didn’t have the work ethic I did, I would not have had the opportunity to even start when I was in high school. I think that definitely spills over into my coaching. I think it’s our calling and our duty to use whatever gifts God has given us to the utmost and to his glory,” Owen said.

“I wanted to be a head coach because of the impact that you can have as a whole. You can have an impact on the whole program. You’ve got a chance to impact so many peoples’ lives. Not just the players, but the community as well.”

Now that time has come. While Owen not only faces the challenge of coming home to his alma mater and trying to create a successful program on and off the gridiron, that’s not all. The challenge of building a consistent winner will come even tougher because of a challenging host of local foes. While divisions will be reclassified following the 2018 season, PRC finds themselves in a region with Hattiesburg, Wayne County, Picayune, Stone, Long Beach, Gautier and West Harrison.

“It is the SEC of 5A football to me. You’re going to have some good teams in this division that don’t even make the playoffs,” Owen stated.

“One thing I’ve tried to convey to parents is I don’t know if we’ll be the most successful program in the state, but I want to give our kids the best opportunity to be successful. Getting involved with our junior program and asking them to do things other places don’t do.”

#JohnLukeMcCord #PearlRiverCentral

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