Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Dobie Holden Stadium 100 Wildcat Dr Poplarville, MS 39470
Year Opened: 1966
Football in the Swamps
Pearl River Community College is one of 14 schools in the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) in the NJCAA. The school first fielded a football team as a high school program in 1911, before becoming a JUCO member in 1925 and joining the MACCC in 1927.
Since becoming a Junior College the Wildcats have taken home 19 State and MACCC championships between 1925 and 2006, winning more state championships than any other JUCO program in Mississippi. The Wildcats have also won two NJCAA National Championships (1961 and 2004) and played in another in 2006 (which they lost).
Pearl River is the oldest community college in the state. Today the college has expanded to include 4 locations around South Mississippi, with an enrollment of 5,200. The main campus is located on the swamps of the Pearl River near the small town of Poplarville, right on the Mississippi-Louisiana state line.
The Wildcats play on campus at Dobie Holden Stadium, named after the winningest coach in program history – Holden was a successful running back for LSU in the 1930s before coaching the Wildcats from 1948-1966. Holden won 8 state championships and one national championship during his time here and helped transform Pearl River into an elite JUCO program on the national level. Like most of the facilities on campus, the stadium was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina and was completely rebuilt following the storm. Following these extensive renovations, the Wildcats play in one of the nicest facilities in the MACCC.
Food & Beverage 2
There are two concession stands located under the stadium on the home side, and one pop-up stand on the away side. The home side sells the regular menu of hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn, with canned Cokes and assorted candy. The unique item I saw was a funnel cake. The away side stand is under a tent and only sells popcorn, candy, and Coke.
The Pearl River campus is quite large and is typical of a southern college campus, with large marble buildings with Greek columns, as well as giant oaks scattered across campus. There's a small college feel here as you arrive and see people tailgating throughout campus – you almost forget you are at a junior college.
The stadium originally opened after Holden's retirement in 1966 and currently holds 5,500 seats. Before that, the Wildcats played at a smaller stadium just south of the current stadium. Dobie Holden Stadium is located on the north side of campus as part of the school's athletic complex; the field faces north and south with the home side located on the west side of the stadium.
The main entrance is located on the south side of the stadium and can be kind of hidden behind the building that house the Wildcat Den, the official team store of PRCC Athletics. Pearl River pays homage to the legendary coach with a large 6-foot sculpture greeting fans as they enter on the south side.
Once inside the stadium, the home side is packed out for all the games. The home side features about 11 rows of all metal bleacher seating, except the 1,000 chairback seats reserved for season ticket holders on the 50-yard line. The band and the rather large student section take up the majority of the south side of the bleachers. In the north end zone is a huge video board with the words PRCC manicured into a bush underneath.
The MACCC schools are in small towns spread out throughout rural areas of Mississippi. Poplarville is one of the larger towns in the conference and is the county seat of Pearl River County. The campus is located several blocks west of downtown. Poplarville has a population of 2,000 and is typical of a Mississippi town, with the southern small town feel where everybody knows everybody.
There are a few restaurants worth checking out downtown – Scooter's is a popular place for po'boys, and Deb's Pizza is a popular pizza joint in downtown. Also, as Poplarville is located in dry county alcohol is not sold inside the city limits. Poplarville also doesn't have any hotels; instead, I would recommend staying about 30 minutes south in Picayune. Poplarville is also about 30 minutes south of Hattiesburg and an hour north of New Orleans, where there are plenty of hotels and better food options.
Fans in football-crazed Mississippi love their football, and Poplarville is no exception – the small town shuts down on Thursday nights when the Wildcats play at home. JUCO football is so popular in South Mississippi that Thursday nights mark the beginning of fans' four-night football weekend that includes high school football on Friday, college football on Saturday, and then Saints football on Sunday.
PRCC averages about 4,000 fans per game, which is pretty good considering the population of the whole town are only 2,000. It's a family affair in Poplarville as the whole town gets together and comes out to the football games.
Many fans are tailgating all around campus, almost like you were at a regular college football game. And, as this is the swamps of the Louisiana border, I encountered an LSU grad and Poplarville native who was cooking fried gator under his tailgate tent.
Getting to the PRCC campus shouldn't be too hard. Poplarville is located right off Interstate 55 about an hour northeast of New Orleans, and about 30 minutes southwest of Hattiesburg. Exit 29 to Highway 26 will be your best bet as it is the main road that heads into town; the campus is located a few minutes down 26 just north of downtown.
Dobie Holden Stadium is located right at the main entrance to campus, and there are plenty of parking spots on campus. Parking is free too which is always a plus. Once in the stadium, the concourse can be kind of cramped, especially at halftime, but other than that there are no issues, and you can pretty much sit wherever you want to. If you can find an empty chairback seat you can have a seat there as well.
Return on Investment 3
General admission tickets are sold at the box office for $11, while the chairbacks are sold for $20, but if you purchase tickets in advance they are $8 for GA and $17 for chairbacks, and there are also a few empty chairbacks, so once the game starts it is possible to move around.
I consider it a good return on investment to attend a Pearl River game if you are interested in JUCO Football. The experience has a small college football game atmosphere, and PRCC has sent over 290 players to D1 schools over the years, so you are getting to see some potential big-name college football players.
One extra for the Wildcat Den, the campus bookstore located just outside the stadium – this is one of the nicest college bookstores I've ever seen. They have a wide selection of different Pearl River gear, and prices are reasonable too. They even have TVs in there for you to watch the game if you want to come in and get out of the heat.
Also an extra for the Pearl River History Museum located on campus; this unique museum offers all kinds of insight into the history of the college. They have a wide selection of Wildcats sports memorabilia on display including the two NJCAA national championship trophies, several game-worn jerseys, and even Coach Dobie Holden's office desk, intact from his coaching days. This is a neat and impressive museum that chronicles the school's history, however, the museum is only open on Fridays.
Dobie Holden Stadium is also the home stadium for local Poplarville high school football games. The Hornets have made the state playoffs 21 times, including four 4A state championship games (2016, 2018, 2019, 2020) which they all lost.
PRCC has a nice list of alumni as well, including several state senators and 13 players who have been drafted or played in the NFL. But perhaps the most famous person to have attended the school is Jimmy Buffett – after dropping out of Auburn after one year in 1964, Buffett enrolled at PRCC for the 1965-66 school year.
As there are no local bars or clubs in the area for Buffett to play his guitar, he was confined to playing his guitar late into the morning from his dorm room at Huff Hall, which is still located on campus. The band at Pearl River Wildcats games even plays Jimmy Buffett hits during the halftime show, which is a pretty cool sound to hear. Buffett even made an appearance during a Halftime Show here in 2015.