It is hard to believe that we are at the beginning of a new season of pigskin contests as one of Mississippi’s favorite sports is revived with much enthusiasm.
It only seems like yesterday that we were putting the finishing touches on 2013’s season. Lake had a great run finishing undefeated in the regular season, and a number of our teams reached playoffs. Unfortunately, none of our teams made it to Jackson, but now we have a new season of opportunity.
In recent years, the Mississippi High School Activities Association has made changes to the start times of high schools’ football schedules, but hopefully now all of that is settled. Friday marks the official start, and as of now, the final score counts.
One significant change for this season is that teams winning their north and south state championships will not meet in Jackson as in many years past. Our leaders at MHSAA have shown their desire for thinking outside the box by moving the state football championships to university campuses.
This year, all championship games will be played at Mississippi State University’s Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. I was just told by an MHSAA official that next year’s championships will be played at Vaught Hemingway Stadium at Ole Miss.
A few of our high school teams have already gotten a taste of that atmosphere.
In a pre-season scrimmage, Forest played Saturday at Mississippi State University.
My hometown Winona Tigers had their pre-season scrimmage at Ole Miss. So the high schools are already getting into the new routine.
Should MHSAA have moved the games from Jackson? That’s anybody’s guess and everyone likely has a different opinion. As for me, I think it is a good idea. Let’s try something new.
Moving the championships around the state gives fans a chance to see the teams compete who might not otherwise get to attend. Besides, no matter where you have the games, in Mississippi someone will have to drive a long way from somewhere.
It also gives the student-athletes, cheerleaders, band members and others associated with the high school football experience a chance to see college campuses in such a way to spark their interest in continuing their education within the state after high school.
Likewise, it also gives the universities a chance to showcase their campuses and environments. (But college coaches, control yourselves and don’t forget about those pesky NCAA rules about recruiting!)
There will be those who say the MHSAA is hurting Jackson by moving the games away and taking the tourism dollars that go with it. Well, that may be, but frankly I would rather attend games safely. Jackson needs to get its crime issues under control or else risk losing more marquee events like this one to other places in the state. Jackson isn’t the only venue around.
Chris Allen Baker is a native of Winona and serves as the managing editor of The Scott County Times in Forest. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.