CARRIERE, MS (WLOX) - First-year head coach Larry Dolan stopped short of calling Pearl River Central's season-opening game at Forrest County AHS a coincidence.
He spent 22 years at FCAHS in some form before retiring from the public school system to accept a job at Columbia Academy. Dolan guided the Aggies to a 4A state championship in 2013, which included defeating reigning 4A south state champion St. Stanislaus.
After Eric Collins departed PRC for D'Iberville, former Blue Devils athletics director Andy Kivlin helped bring Dolan out of retirement to help Pearl River Central defend their region 4-5A championship.
"[PRC] was probably the only school I would've left the private sector for," said Dolan, who is also the new athletics director. "It was a school with kids that I get along with, the community supports it and I missed public school ball."
Pearl River Central was arguably the most dominant 5A team in the six coastal counties during the regular season, sporting a 10-1 overall record before losing to south state champion Wayne County in the second round of the playoffs.
Yet all that winning experience may not translate to victories this season. The Blue Devils graduated 27 seniors and lost all but one defensive starter -- senior linebacker Seth Orgeron.
Offensively, the scheme won't change too much, but incorporating more passing is in the gameplan for senior quarterback Wyatt Davis, who is one of four returning offensive starters along with running back Michael Tatman, tight end Cade Lee and guard Tyler Keller.
"It's going to be a challenge to get back to that same sort of success but these kids over the years have gotten used to playing for division championships," Dolan said. "What we want to do is win a state championship here. We may be a long way from that, but that's going to always be our goal."
The Thursday night game between PRC and FCAHS is scheduled for 7 p.m.