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MHSAA conference welcomes Ole Brook

JACKSON — Lights, camera, action!

The Mississippi High School Activities Association began beatingits publicity drums Monday morning at a media conference whichkicked off state football championship week in the Capital City.Brookhaven’s entourage joined nine other schools for the eventwhich was hosted by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Museum.

There was an abundance of coaches, players, schooladministrators and band directors on hand. They were interviewed bynewspaper, radio and television reporters. The games will be playedFriday and Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium andall five championship games will be televised.

South state champion Brookhaven (13-1) plays North kingpinClarksdale (11-3) Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the Class 4A titlegame. It will be a cold night but a large crowd is anticipated.

MHSAA executive director Dr. Ennis Proctor provided the officialwelcome at the packed conference room. “I want to congratulate eachof the teams and welcome you to the 14th annual MHSAA pressconference.”

Proctor stressed the importance of each school selling ticketsin advance of their respective games. Tickets are $9 in advance andhalf of that will go directly to the school. Tickets at the stadiumwill sell for $10 each.

“I encourage you to contact area businesses,” said Proctor.”Many of them will purchase blocks of tickets. This helps yourschool and the community.”

Amidst the glitz, and the introduction of several sponsors,Proctor praised The Partnership For A Healthy Mississippi, mainsponsor for the TV broadcast. He also thanked Farm Bureau forsponsoring the championship trophies and the individual medals. Herecognized Coca-Cola for helping host the weekend ofactivities.

Brookhaven, making its first-ever appearance in the statechampionship game, has battled through the super-strong SouthMississippi playoffs to reach the dream game. Superintendent ofEducation Lee Barrett voiced her appreciation for the Panthers.

“I’m proud for the team and proud for the community,” saidBarrett. “We’ve got some great people. It’s great to see themrewarded. It’s great to see the community pull together.”

Playoff fever in the school and community has been rampant forover a month. “I think the sale of red and blue dye has increasedtremendously,” said Barrett, smiling. “We are the lighthousedistrict in South Mississippi.”

BHS principal Susan Chapman echoed Barrett’s sentiments. “To me,the reason we are here today is not the athletic ability of ourteam but their conditioning. I’ve watched them run and lift weightsall year. You couldn’t ask for a group of nicer young men.”

Certainly, it is a team effort in all aspects of curricularactivities. BHS band director Zachary Harris said his 108-memberband was busy preparing for Thursday’s Christmas parade and thestate title game this week.

“Since (the game) is televised, we are only allowed eightminutes to perform at halftime,” explained Harris. “We’ll have toshorten our routine.”

Harris said the band enjoyed the additional appearances in theplayoffs. “Our band members love it. A lot of them have dreamed ofmarching in a big stadium.”

Amy Spring, one of Brookhaven’s cheerleader sponsors, also waspresent for the conference. She and Jerralyn Johnson oversee 18cheerleaders and two mascots.

“We are really looking forward to cheering Saturday night,” saidSpring. “Our group is going to Dallas in December for nationalcompetition.” The BHS cheer squad won state and nationalcompetitions last year.

BHS head football coach Tucker Peavey, along with quarterbackJimmy Johns, center Grant McDonnieal and defensive tackle JessieBowman represented the Panthers. Also present was Peavey’s wife,Leahann.

“Tucker said, ‘I can’t believe you want to go to the pressconference,’ ” Leahann recalled. “I told him I’m going to savorevery moment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Hopefully, the Panthers will make another return to the statetitle game in the not too distant future. Right now, it’s time toenjoy this historic event.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com