By Austin Bishop
The Webster Progress Times
Mississippi High School Activities Association state football champions will be crowned in all six classes over the weekend, with at least three of those games having some interest locally.
In Class 2A Calhoun City, the winner of Region 4-2A where both Eupora High School and East Webster participate, will be taking on defending champion Bassfield for the MHSAA Class 2A State Championship at 3 p.m. on Friday.
The Class 1A game, which will be played at 11 a.m. on Friday, has French Camp — which dropped a 51-21 decision to Eupora in the second game of the season, — taking on Smithville.
The Class 3A game, set for 11 a.m. on Saturday, has Louisville High School from just down the road in Winston County, facing defending champion Hazlehurst for the title.
The other games have Tupelo and Oak Grove facing off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the 6A title game, Lafayette County and Forrest County AHS playing at 3 p.m. on Saturday for the 4A crown and Oxford taking on Picayune at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday for the 5A championship.
All six games will be played at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. Tickets are $13 per game at the gate or $12 if purchased in advance at the participating schools. The games can also be seen live on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting network.
Calhoun City posted a 42-31 road win over East Webster on Oct. 11 and then defeated visiting Eupora 27-20 on Oct. 25.
When the 2013 football season began, French Camp was among the favorites in MHSAA Class 1A. Smithville, on the other hand, was in very few conversations.
That’s not the only contrast in the two schools who will meet in the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Championship Game at 11 a.m. on Friday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. FCA runs a wide-open offense, while Smithville likes to grind out yardage with a power offense. French Camp has been riddled with injuries all season long, while Smithville has run through the season with only a few bumps and bruises. Smithville has two golden footballs signifying state championships in its trophy case, having won titles in 1993 and 1998, while FCA is still looking for its first title.
“We know it’s going to be a good football game between two good teams,” said FCA head coach Nathan Wright. “We have a lot of respect for Smithville and what they’ve had to do to get here. Hopefully both of us will be ready and will give our best on Friday morning.”
The Seminoles of Smithville, who finished in a three-way tie for second place in Region 1-1A has put together an 11-4 overall mark and is currently riding a four-game winning streak, including a convincing 47-24 win over St. Aloysius in the North State Championship Game.
The Panthers of FCA enter Friday’s contest on a five-game winning streak and are 10-5 overall after getting off to an 0-4 start on the season.
Hazlehurst’s football resume is impressive.
The Indians are the defending MHSAA Class 3A State Football Champions and will be playing for the title for the third consecutive season when they take the field at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday.. Hazlehurst is also 14-1 this season, with that only loss coming to Class 2A power Bassfield 21-20 in a thriller. HHS has beaten opponents by two touchdowns or more 11 times this season, including last week’s 36-22 win over Wilkinson County in the South State title game. The Indians have beaten teams by 20 points or more eight times and nine times have held opponents to 15 points or less.
All of that is true, but it’s also true that the consensus pick to win the 2013 championship when the Indians face off with Louisville High School at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Jackson is not Hazlehurst. That’s something that’s not lost on Hazlehurst head coach Randal Montgomery.
“All the talk is about Louisville and that’s rightfully so,” said Montgomery, who is in his third season as head coach of the Indians. “Anytime you have won as many state championships as they have, they have earned the right to be talked about . But, we really don’t get into that type of thing anyway. We just really try to take care of Hazlehurst and we have done a good job so far.”
Not only are the folks in 3A talking about Louisville being the team to beat, but coaches in other classifications recognize the strength of the 2013 Wildcats as well.
“The biggest break we got all year was Louisville being moved from 4A down to 3A,” said Lafayette County head football coach Eric Robertson when he took the podium for the MHSAA Football Championships press conference held at the Mississippi Hall of Fame in Jackson on Monday. That comment got a big laugh from those in attendance, but also a large number of nods of agreement.
Veteran LHS head coach M.C. Miller, who will be trying to lead Louisville to its eighth state football championship since the playoffs began in 1981, also understands what those comments will do for the Hazlehurst team as it prepares for the Wildcats this week.
“It will give them a little burn and I know that too,” Miller said, noting that the Indians may come into the game feeling they have something to prove. “We are just going to have to get some of that determination back on our side. We’re not done yet.”
That’s something Louisville High School senior quarterback Wyatt Roberts fully understands.
“We are completely zoned in on Hazlehurst,” he said. “I mean, this is it. This is the biggest game of the year. Nobody is going to overlook the defending state champions.”