Thursday, January 11, 2007
By Barry Burleson
Public, private can play in fall
The new year brought some big news for high school sports in our state.
First up, high schools from the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Private School Association will be allowed to play each other in athletic competition starting in the fall of 2007.
I like it. We’re tearing down some walls.
Young people can get to know more young people and build relationships. And those young people will be our community leaders of tomorrow.
Some schools can cut down on travel.
It can mean more money at the gate. It should be good for the fans, too.
The scheduling is voluntary - only if schools want to do it. MPSA schools will first be committed to scheduling others in their own association, and the same holds true for MHSAA schools.
But there could be some intriguing matchups, even right here in Marshall County.
“I like it,” said Don Randolph, superintendent of the Marshall County School District. “It’s good for kids to compete against each other and learn each other. It will make them better athletes and better people.”
Wade Griffin, head football coach at Marshall Academy, said the new ruling should create lots of interest regarding ticket sales.
“It will be good from a competition aspect,” Griffin said.
He said his schedule is basically complete heading into next season, but he wouldn’t rule out playing a public school in the future.
Craig Dailey, head basketball coach at MA, wants to set up a tournament next season with public and private high schools competing at one of the colleges.
“This really opens the door for that to take place,” Dailey said. “I am really excited about the MPSA and MHSAA announcing that play will be allowed between member schools. It should make for some exciting basketball.”
A good first step right here at home would be Marshall Academy teams competing in the 2007 Bi-County (Marshall and Benton) Basketball Tournament with Ashland, Byhalia, Hickory Flat, Holly Springs, H.W. Byers and Potts Camp.
At least one football game between a public and private school in North Mississippi is already on tap for 2007. Ackerman will open its season against Winston Academy.
The other big announcement last week is the return of the MHSAA’s Grand Slam basketball championship.
For the first time in 25 seasons, state champions (girls and boys) in the five public school classes will play for an overall state title. The tournament will be held March 15-17 right here in North Mississippi, at the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo.
My first thought was - “Why couldn’t we have had this in 2004 and 2005 when the Holly Springs Hawks won Class 3A state crowns?”
Dream games would have been a reality.
But it’s here now, and I think it’s welcomed by most in the MHSAA.
In other words, the small schools will get a shot at the big schools - just like in my favorite basketball movie “Hoosiers.”
And just like in the movie, the small schools can pull it off.
Look no farther than right here in Marshall County for a prime example.
The Potts Camp boys won the MHSAA Grand Slam basketball championship back in 1961.
Maybe one of our county schools can do it again, 46 years later.
One thing’s certain - last week’s two announcements on the high school front should make for some good newspaper stories on down the road.
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