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MPSA celebrates football title week

JACKSON — It reminded me of a combination Christmas party andfamily reunion at the Mississippi Sports Museum and Hall of Fame onLakeland Drive. Monday’s Mississippi Private School AssociationFootball Championship Media Conference, featured proud coaches,players and administrators from the state playoff finalists, pluslots of TV cameras, radio talk show commentators and print mediareporters.

Everyone wore a bright smile, with the exception of a few mediafolks. They were working on Monday morning instead of staying inbed after a long weekend of sports activity. Coaches from eachschool exchanged compliments with their upcoming opponents,introduced their players, coaches and administrators, and smiledwith pride.

Certainly, it has been a long season. One coach said he had beenthrough 19 weeks of football. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, manyschools had to adjust their schedules after that fateful Monday,Aug. 29, which changed thousands of lives forever.

The eight teams represented at the media blitz were the survivorsof delayed seasons and the playoff grind. This weekend’s MPSAaction starts Thursday afternoon at Mississippi College in Clinton,at renovated Hale-Robinson Stadium. Most of the players have neverset foot on MC’s new artificial surface, known as Sprint Turf.

“There will be no more mud bowls,” proclaimed MPSA Director ofActivities Les Triplett. “You are in for a pleasant surprise atMC.”

Triplett pointed out that the field is secure, meaning sidelinesecurity would be enforced. Only players, coaches, cheerleadersstatistics keepers, cameramen and media would be allowed.

Visitors must enter on the visiting side of the field and the hometeam’s fans must enter on the home side. Foot traffic across MC’snew all-weather track is prohibited. Chewers of gum, tobacco andsunflower seeds are frowned upon in the playing field area. Swallowit. Don’t throw it on the ground.

Copiah Academy coach Mitch Mitchell introduced his players andcoaches. His Colonels are in the Class AA state championship gamefor the first time in 24 years.

Copiah’s Thursday night opponent, the football factory from SimpsonCounty Academy, is seeking a 3-peat. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Mitchell inherited a 2-10 team when he took the helm two years ago.The Colonels have accomplished much to reach the state titlegame.

Carol Rigby, CA’s headmaster, smiled with pride and her blue eyessparkled with excitement when she talked about the Colonels. “Wehave really great kids in our senior class. Our coaches have done agood job getting them in tip-top shape.”

Copiah’s return to gridiron glory has captured the community’sinterest in Gallman and the Copiah County area. Attendance was wellover 1,000 for the Colonels’ South state finals victory over OakForest.

“I saw people there (at game) who I had not seen in 10 years,” saidRigby. “I’m not sure the visiting stands at MC will hold all ofus.”

Triplett said the MPSA was considering a move to section off aportion of the home side stands to accommodate more visiting teamfans. Surprisingly, there will be no advance ticket sales for thisweekend’s games.

Mitchell is well known for his coaching success in basketball,winning a state championship with the Lady Colonels. TheTopeka-Tilton graduate has a football background and played tightend at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He was an assistant coachat Simpson for eight years before moving to Copiah.

Mitchell and Simpson head coach Billy Hankins are old friends. Theyhave spent many hours watching game films together. Obviously, theyknow how to coach football.

A familiar face was present yesterday. Herbert Davis, Jr., a 1985Brookhaven Academy graduate, has his Columbus Heritage Patriots inthe AAA Division II championship game, facing Starkville AcademyFriday at 1:30 p.m. Jackson Prep and Jackson Academy clash for theDivision I title that night.

For Davis, 38, a graduate of Co-Lin and Mississippi College, thisis his fourth state championship game. In 1993, Davis coached theBA Cougars to a AA state championship. He also coached Winston andGreenwood Pillow to state title games in 1991 and ’97respectively.

Another familiar face was Jackson Academy athletic director BobbyWest. The Brookhaven High School graduate oversees one of thelargest and most successful MPSA athletic programs. West was a bigsuccess at BHS in the mid 1970s, coaching the Panthers to severalwinning basketball seasons. West later won a couple of Overalltitles at Jackson Prep before going to JA.

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